Skip to main content

Full text of "The clan Donald"

See other formats


'rilE     CLAN     DOIsALD. 


BV    THE 

Rev.    a.    MACDONALD, 


Rev.    a.    MACDONALD, 



VOL    L 

The  sovereignty  of  the  Gael  to  the  Clan  Cholla, 
It  is  right  to  proclaim  it." 

Entienuss  : 
















This  is  the  first  of*  three  volumes  of  the  Clan 
Donald  History,  undertaken  at  the  request  of 
the  Clan  Donald  Society.  The  large  variety  of 
authorities  to  be  consulted,  illustrative  matter 
recently  come  to  hand,  and  an  Appendix  more 
voluminous  than  was  at  first  anticipated,  these, 
along  with  other  unexpected  causes,  have  com- 
pelled the  postponement  of  its  publication  beyond 
the  date  at  which  it  was  first  expected  to 
appear.  It  is  hoped  that,  notwithstanding  inevi- 
table faults  and  failings,  the  manner  in  which 
the  work  has  so  far  been  executed  may  prove 
satisfactory  to  our  Clan  Donald  readers,  and  that, 
entenng  as  it  does  to  a  large  extent  upon  the 
domain  of  Scottish  History,  it  may  also  prove 
acceptable  to  the  public  at  large.  That  such 
a  work  should  have  been  mooted  at  this  time  of 
day  may  appear  superfluous  to  those  who  believe 
that  the  subject  has  already  been  treated  exhaus- 
tively throughout  its  wide  extent.  Such  an 
assumption  is  very  wide  of  the  mark.  The  late 
Dr  Skene,  even  in  his  earlier  and  less  mature  work 
on  "  The  Highlanders  of  Scotland,"  in  which  he 
has   occasion   to   refer    at    considerable    lenc^th    to 

Vlll.  PREFACE. 

"  Siol  Chuinu,"  did  not  profess  to  write  the  history 
of  the  Clan  Donald ;  and  Mr  Donald  Gregory — 
than  whom  no  more  painstaking,  thorough,  or  con- 
scientious student  of  Scottish  history  ever  lived — 
wrote  of  this  Clan  only  so  far  as  to  illustrate  the 
general  history  of  the  Highlands  up  to  1625.  Mr 
Charles  Fraser-Mackintosh,  in  his  erudite  researches 
regarding  "The  Last  Macdonalds  of  Isla,"  i.e.,  of 
Dunnyveg,  has  only  touched  upon  a  part  of  the 
stirring  annals  of  that  House.  Mr  Alexander 
Mackenzie,  M.J. I.,  is  doubtless  responsible  for  a 
compilation  entitled  "  The  History  of  the  Mac- 
donalds and  Lords  of  the  Isles,"  drawn  principally 
from  the  pages  of  Skene,  Gregory,  the  Clanranald 
Book  of  1819,  Wood's  Douglas's  Peerage,  and  other 
writers.  It  is  clear,  however,  that  a  production 
of  this  nature,  based  upon  second-hand  materials 
rather  than  upon  primary  sources  of  historical 
study,  cannot,  upon  the  most  charitable  view,  be 
regarded  as  a  serious  contribution  to  the  literature 
of  the  subject.  Even  as  a  compilation  it  is 
defective  in  scope.  Many  Macdonald  families 
whose  position  was  outstanding,  and  whose  annals 
abounded  in  most  stirring  events — such  as  Dunny- 
veg, Antrim,  Ardnamurchan,  Largie,  and  others- 
have  been  passed  over  with  a  mere  reference  in  this 
"History  of  the  Macdonalds  and  Lords  of  the  Isles." 
The  period  embraced  in  this  volume  extends  from 
the  twelfth  down  to  the  middle  of  the  sixteenth 
century,  the  purpose  being  to  trace  the  history  of 


the  Lordship  of  the   Isles   not  only  to  the  fall  of 
the  House  of  Isla  in  1493,  but  also  to  record  the 
successive  attempts  made  to  restore  it  down  to  the 
last  move  by  Sir  James  Macdonald  in  1545-6.    While 
wiiting  the  earlier  chapters  we  felt  embarrassed  by 
our  remoteness  from  the  or'reat  libraries  of  the  South, 
and  consequently  this  part  of  the  volume  may  have 
to  some  extent  suffered  as  regards  thoroughness  of 
research.     With  respect  to  the  bulk  of  the  volume 
these  difficulties  have  been  overcome.     Through  the 
great  kindness  of  Miss  Yule,  of  Tarradale  House,  the 
rich  resources  of  the  London  Library  were  placed  at 
our  disposal,  while  through  the  unwearied  co-operation 
of  an  accomplished  Clanswoman,  Miss  Macdonell  of 
Keppoch,  we  have  obtained  many  valuable  extracts 
from  the  Library  of  the  British  Museum.     We  also 
spent  much  time  among  the  various  libraries  of  the 
"  Modern  Athens,"  and  obtained  from  a  number  of 
sources  information  both  interesting  and  fresh.     To 
Mr  Morrison   of  the   Public  Library,  Mr  Clark   of 
tlie    Advocates'    Library,    Dr    Joseph    Anderson   of 
the    Society    of  Antiquaries   Library,    and    to     Mr 
Maitland-Thomson    of    the    Historical    Department 
of    the   Register   House,    we   tender   our   sincerest 
thanks  for  the  facilities  so  kindly  and  courteously 
afforded.     The  valuable  private  library  of  Beaufort 
Castle,   Inverness-shire,    was    with    great  kindness 
opened    up    to    us    by    Lord    Lovat.      Its    varied 
collection  of  club   publications  and  other  historical 
works  have  proved  of  immense  assistance,  and  we 


beg  to  record  our  deep  sense  of  his  lordship's 
courtesy  and  consideration. 

In  the  course  of  our  researches  we  have  consulted 
at  first  hand  such  repositories  of  historical  lore  as 
the  Annals  of  the  Four  Masters,  The  Annals  of 
Ulster,  The  Annals  of  Loch  Ce,  Hugh  Macdonald's 
MS.,  the  Macdonald  MS.  of  1700,  The  Chronicle 
of  Man,  Anecdotes  of  Olave  the  Black,  The 
Chartulary  of  Paisley,  Haco's  Expedition,  Acts  of 
the  Scottish  Parliament,  Rymer's  Foedera,  Ayloffe's 
Calendar  of  Ancient  Charters,  Potuli  Scoti?e, 
Patent  Roll,  Anderson's  Historical  Documents  of 
Scotland,  Robertson's  Index  of  Charters,  Register 
of  the  Great  Seal,  Exchequer  Rolls,  Chamberlain 
Rolls,  Acts  of  the  Lords  of  Council,  Registei' 
of  the  Privy  Seal,  Documents  in  State  Paper  Office, 
with  many  other  historical  works  written  on  the 
Highlands  of  Scotland. 

Mrs  Ramsay  of  Kildalton  very  kindly  lent  us  a 
copy  of  "  The  Book  of  Islay,"  printed  for  private 
circulation  only,  and  containing  much  material  for 
our  work,  available  mostly  for  the  period  embraced 
in  our  second  volume. 

To  the  heads  of  the  great  Families  of  the  Isles 
who  so  readily  responded  to  our  request  for  help 
we  owe  a  deep  debt  of  gratitude.  Lord  Macdonald 
and  the  Chief  of  Clanranald,  who  have  placed  at 
our  disposal  a  mass  of  most  valuable  papers,  have 
conferred  a  very  great  obligation  not  only  upon 
us  but  through  us  upon  the  Clan  in  general,  and 


no  effort  will  be  spared  to  turn  these  documents — 
relating  to  the  sixteenth,  seventeenth,  and  eighteenth 
centuries — to  the  very  best  account.  Lord  Antrim's 
courteous  response  to  our  enquiries  as  to  historical 
documents  connected  with  his  Family  calls  for  our 
warmest  thanks. 

Colonel  Macdonald  of  Glenaladale  and  iEneas  R. 
Macdonald,  Esq.  of  Morar,  in  proof  of  the  great 
interest  they  take  in  our  work,  have  kindly  furnished 
us  with  historical  documents  of  considerable  interest 
and  value.  We  record  with  sincere  thanks  the 
interest  displayed  in  our  work  by  our  friend  and 
countryman,  Alexander  Macdonald,  Esq.  of  Bal- 
ranald  and  Edenwood,  head  of  the  Clann  Domhnuill 
Herraich,  who  with  his  wonted  kindness  has  furnished 
us  with  valuable  genealogical  notes  connected  w^ith 
the  ancient  family  of  which  he  is  the  representative. 
We  beg  also  to  acknowledge  our  obligations  to 
Captain  Allan  Macdonald  of  Waternish,  head  of  the 
house  of  Balfinlay,  for  the  warm  interest  he  has 
manifested  in  us  and  in  our  work,  as  well  as  for 
interesting  historical  materials  available  for  our 
second  volume.  We  desire  to  record  with  most 
grateful  recollections  the  aid  and  co-operation 
rendered  us  by  one  of  the  warmest- hearted  of 
Clansmen  and  best  of  Highlanders,  Alexander 
Macdonald,  Esq.  of  Treaslan,  Portree.  For  various 
contributions  towards  this  and  the  succeeding 
volumes  we  have  to  acknowledge  our  indebtedness 
to    that    genial    and     enthusiastic    Clansman,    Dr 


Keith  Norman  Macdonald  of  Ediiibane  Hospital, 
Skye,  the  Orpheus  of  the  Clan,  whose  volumes  on 
the  music  and  song  of  the  Gael  are  the  delight  of 
all  Highlanders. 

Among  others  who  have  assisted  us  during  the 
progress  of  this  volume  special  reference  is  due  to 
Charles  Fraser-Mackintosh,  Esq.  of  Drummond, 
lately  M.P.  for  Inverness-shire,  whose  services, 
whether  in  the  field  of  literature  or  politics,  deserve 
the  everlasting  gratitude  of  every  Highlander.  We 
desire  also  to  record  our  obligation  to  Dr  C.  R, 
Macdonald,  County  Medical  Officer,  Ayr,  who 
kindly  placed  at  our  disposal  papers  left  by  his 
cultured  father,  the  late  Hugh  Macdonald,  Esq., 
Grandtully,  whose  memory  as  an  indefatigable 
collector  and  writer  of  Clan  Donald  lore  deserves 
honourable  mention  in  any  record  of  the  Clan 
Cholla.  We  are  much  indebted  to  the  kindness 
of  a  cultured  young  gentleman,  D.  Murray  Rose, 
Esq.,  for  many  valuable  suggestions  as  to  sources 
of  information,  and  for  other  assistance.  Special 
acknowledgment  is  likewise  due  to  Ranald  W. 
Macdonald,  Esq.,  of  H.M.  Customs,  one  of  the 
secretaries  of  the  Glasgow  Macdonald  Society,  and 
John  Macdonald,  Esq.,  Newton-on-Ayr,  formerly 
one  of  the  secretaries  of  the  Glasgow  Macdonald 
Society,  for  help  often  asked  and  as  often  generously 
and  ungrudgingly  given.  We  have  further  to 
express  our  sense  of  the  kindly  help  rendered  us  by 
Andrew  Ross,  Esq.,  S.S.C.,  Marchmont  Herald,  Edin- 


burgh,  and  W.  R.  Macdonald,  Esq.,  of  the  Scottish 
MetropoHtan  Life  Assurance  Company,  Edinburgh. 
Last,  but  not  least,  we  would  record  our  gratitude 
to  the  venerable  Miss  L.  C  E,.  Macdonell,  Mavis 
Bank,  Rothesay,  daughter  of  that  prince  of  High- 
landers, the  late  Colonel  Alexander  Ranaldson 
Macdonell  of  Glengarry. 

We  trust  that  the  illustrations,  most  of  which  are 
entirely  new,  will  enhance  the  value  of  the  volame 
and  its  interest  to  the  Clan.  In  connection  with 
these  we  have  again  to  ex]:)ress  our  indebtedness  to 
Miss  Josephine  M.  Macdonell  of  Keppoch,  who  has 
contributed  several  animated  battle  scenes,  and  whose 
cordial  assistance  has  ever  been  ungrudgingly 
bestowed.  In  conclusion,  we  must  in  justice 
express  our  obligations  to  the  manager  of  the 
Northern  Counties  Printing  and  Publishing  Com- 
pany, Limited  (Mr  Livingston),  whose  valuable 
advice  and  unfailing  urbanity  have  made  the  passage 
of  this  volume  through  the  press  most  pleasant  to 

July  7,  1896. 




Difficulties  of  the  Subject. — Primitive  Populations. — Picts  and  Dalriads. — 
Union  of  Dalriada  and  Pictavia. — The  Norse  Occupation. — Kingdom 
of  Man  and  the  Isles. — Traces  of  the  Norseman. — Tlie  Gall-Gael         .       1 


Rise  of  the  Kingdom  of  Alban. — Rise  and  Growth  of  English  Influence. — 
Feudal  Scotland. — Origin  of  the  Clan  Donald. — Theories  on  the 
Subject. — The  Dalriadic  Origin. — Genealogj'  of  the  Clan  down  to 
Somerled     ............     18 



Gilledomnan. — Gillebride  na  h-uaimh. — His  attempt  to  recover  the  Family 
Inheritance. — His  Failure. — Rise  of  Somerled. — Early  Life. — Gaelic 
Rising. — The  Maclnneses. — Somerled's  Leadership  and  Strategy. — 
Regulus  of  Argyll. —  Olave  the  Red.— Marriage  with  Ragahildis. — 
Accession  of  Godred. — Rebellion  in  Man. — Battle  off  Isla. — Division 
of  Isles. — Conquest  of  Man. — Malcolm  Macbeth. — Somerled's  Treaty 
with  Malcolm  IV. — Somerled's  Invasion  of  Scotland.— His  Death, 
Character,  and  Position       .........     36 



The  Sons  of  Somerled. — Di\'ision  of  Patrimony. — Strife  between  Reginald 
and  Angus. — Death  of  Angus. — Reginald  Succeeds  to  his  Estates. — 
Character  of   Reginald. — Question   of    Seniority. — Descendants    of 


Dugald  Mac  Somerled. — The  Sons  of  Reginald. — Descent  of  King 
Alexander  upon  Argyll  in  1221-2. — Descent  in  1249. — Position  of 
Ewiu  of  Lorn. — Donald  of  Isla. — Angus  Mor. — Scottish  Aggi'cssion 
in  Isles. — Roderick  of  Bute. — Haco's  Expedition  — Battle  of  Largs. — 
Cession  of  Isles. — Position  of  the  Island  Lords    .         .         .         .         .56 

•       CHAPTER   V. 

BRUCE  AXD  THE  CLAN  CHOLLA.— 1284-1329. 

Death  of  Alexander  III.  and  subsequent  Anarch}-. — Angus  Mor's  Relation 
to  Scottish  Parties. — Convention  of  Estates  Settling  Crown. — Angus 
Mor  favours  the  Bruce  Interest  — Death  of  Angus  Mor. — Division  of 
Territories. — Alexander  of  Isla  Suj^ports  England. — Defeat  by  Bruce, 
Caiitivity,  and  Death. —Angus  Og  joins  Bruce. — Bannockburn. — 
Death  of  Angus  Og 80 


THE  GOOD  JOHN  OF   ISLA.- 1330-1386. 

John  of  Isla. — His  rehition  to  .Scottish  Pai-ties. — Treaty  with  Balliol. — 
Forfeiture. — Foifciture  of  Reginald  Macruaii. — Pardon  fnd  Rein.state- 
ment. — Assassination  of  Reginald  Macruari. — John  aud  the  Lands  of 
Garmoran,  &c.  John  at  the  Battle  of  Poictiers.  —His  Captivity. — 
Ransom. — Connection  with  the  Nati  nal  Party.-  Second  Marriage.— 
Constable  of  Edinburgh  '  Castle. — High  Steward  of  Scotland. — 
Rebellion.— Treaty  of  Inverness.  — Lordship  of  the  Isles. — John's 
Eminence.- Death. — Controversial  Questions. — The  Two  Marriages  .  103 

CHART  El!    VII. 


The  Succession  of  Donald  to  the  Lfn-dship  of  the  Isles. —  Reginald  and  the 
Crown  Charter  of  1373. — The  jiosition  of  Godfrey. — John  Mor 
Tainistear  and  Alasdair  Carrach. — Donald's  policy. — Celtic  supremacy. 
— Alliance  with  England.  — Richard  II.  at  Finlaggan  in  Isla. — 
Rebellion  of  Alasdair  Carrach. — The  Marldom  of  Ross. — The  Lord 
of  the  Isles  inva<les  the  Earldom. — Defeat  of  .\ngus  Dubh  Mackay  at 
Dingwall. — Donald  takes  possession  of  Inverness. — March  to  Aber- 
deen.— The  Battle  of  Harlaw. — Defeat  of  Mar  and  his  Lowlanders. — 
Donald  retires  to  the  Isles. — The  Regent  Albany  with  an  army 
invades  Ross,  and  takes  po.ssessiou  of  the  Earldom. — Albany's 
Campaigns  in  Argyle. — John  of  Fordoun's  Treaty  of  Poi-tgilp. — 
The  Rebellion  of  John  Mor.  — Character  and  Death  of  the  Hero  of 
Harlaw 130 



ALEXANDER  DE  ILE,  EARL  OF  ROSS.— 1425-1449. 

Alexander's  Accession  to  the  Lordship. — James  I.  returns. — Earldom  of 
Ross  in  the  Crown. — James  I.  ^^sits  Inverness. — Convention. — State 
of  Highlands. — Murder  of  John  Mor. — Dispute  about  Garmoran. — 
Murder  of  Alexander  MacGorrie.  — Imprisonment  of  Lord  of  Isles. — 
His  Liberation. — His  Revolt. — Surrender  at  Holyrood.  —  Captivity  in 
Tantallon. — Inverlochy.  —Release  of  Alexander.  — Murder  of  James  I. 
— Alexander  receives  the  Earldom. — Appointed  Justiciar. — Favours 
to  Mackintosh. — Death  of  Alexander. — His  Character         .         .         .  169 



John  de  lie,  Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles.— The  Earl  a  Minor  when 
he  succeeded. — Minority  of  James  II. — League  between  the  Earls  of 
Ross,  Crawford,  and  Douglas. — The  Earl  of  Ross  in  Rebellion. — 
Murder  of  the  Earl  of  Douglas. — The  Earl  of  Ross  and  his  Ross-shire 
Neighbours. — Raids  on  Orkney  by  the  Islemen. — Meeting  of  Douglas 
and  Macdonald  at  Dunstaffuage. — Invasion  of  the  King's  Lands  by 
Donald  Balloch. — Raid  of  Lismore. —Discomfiture  of  Bishop  Lauder. 
— The  Lady  of  the  Isles  Escapes  from  the  Highlands. — John  receives 
favours  from  the  King. — He  is  appointed  one  of  the  Wardens  of  the 
Marches.— The  Earl  of  Ross  at  the  Siege  of  Roxburgh. — Treaty  of 
Ardthornish         ...........  200 



Events  following  Ardthornish  Treaty. — Its  Discovery. — Cause  of  Dis- 
covery.— Indictment. — Summons. — Forfeiture. — Expeditions  against 
John. — He  Submits. — Resignation. — Partial  Re-instatement  and  New 
Honour.— Charter  of  1476.— Sentiment  in  Isles.— Angus  Og.— His 
Attitude. — Rebellion  in  Knapdale. — Invasion  of  Ross. — Feud  with 
Mackenzie. — Lagabraad. — Bloody  Bay. — Abduction  of  Donald  Dubh. 
—Raid  of  Athole.— The  Probable  Facts. — Angus'  Reconciliation  to 
his  Father.— Assassination  of  Angus  Og. — Alexander  of  Lochalsh. — 
Invasion  of  Ross.— Battle  of  Park.— John's  Final  Forfeiture  and 
Death 241 




State  of  the  Highland.^  after  the  Forfeiture  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles. — 
James  IV.  visits  the  Highlands,  and  holds  Court  at  Dunstaffnage. — 
Several  Highland  Chiefs  submit  to  the  King.  — The  King  at  Tarbert 
in  Kintyre. — Left  Garrisons  at  Tarbert  and  Dunaverty. — Revolt  of 
the  Clan  Iain  Mhoir. — The  King  at  Mingarry  receives  Submission  of 
many  of  the  Highland  Chiefs. — Legislation  for  the  Isles. — Rebellion 
of  Alexander  of  Lochalsh, — The  King  grants  Charters  at  his  new 
Castle  of  Kilkerran,  in  Kintyre. — The  King  revokes  Charters 
formerly  granted  by  him  to  the  Highland  Chiefs.  —  Rebellion  of 
Donald  Dubh. — Legislation  for  the  Highlands. — Appointment  of 
Sheriffs. — The  position  of  the  different  Branches  of  the  Clan  Donald. 
— The  Highlanders  at  Flodden. — First  Rebellion  of  Sir  Donald  of 
Lochalsh. — Second  Rebellion  of  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh. — His  Death.   283 


THE  CLAN  DONALD  UNDER  JAMES  V.— 1519-1545. 

Rise  of  the  House  of  Argyle. — Bonds  of  Maurent  to  Clan  Donald. — 
Escape  of  James  V.,  and  change  of  Policy. — Troubles  in  the  North 
and  South  Isles. — Donald  Gruamach. — Alexander  of  Dunnyveg. — 
Feud  of  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  with  Argyle. — The  Clan  Maclean  unite 
with  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  against  Argyle. — Argyle  Invades  Maclean 
Territory. — Cawdor's  Proposals  for  Pacifying  Isles. — Mission  of 
Robert  Hart. — Mission  of  Argyle  and  Murray. — The  King  takes  the 
Isles  in  hand. — Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  Submits. — Argyle's  Dis- 
appointment. —  Alexander  of  Dunny veg's  Indictment.  —  Argyle's 
Disgrace. — Rebellion  of  Donald  Gorme  of  Sleat. — Siege  of  Elian - 
donan. — Death  of  Donald  Gorme. — Royal  Progi'ess  through  Isles. — 
Captivity  of  Chiefs. — Death  of  James  V. — Escape  of  Donald  Dubh. — 
Scottish  Parties. — Liberation  of  Chiefs. — Donald  Dubh  Invades 
Argyle  and  Lochaber. — Correspondence  with  Henry  VIII. — Proclam- 
ation against  Rebels. — Donald  Dubh  and  Earl  of  Lennox. — Failure  of 
Rebellion. — Death  of  Donald  Dubh. — Pretensions  of  James  of  Dunny- 
veg to  the  Lordship. — Abdication  of  Claims       .....  327 



Structure  of  Celtic  Society. — The  Council  of  St  Finlaggan. — Accounts  of 
Proclamation  of  Lords  of  the  Isles. — An  Independent  Mortuath. — 
Tametry.  —The  Toshach. — The   Judge.— Officials. — Relation  to   the 


Land. — The  Tribe  Lands. — Demesne  and   Church    Lands.  —  Law  of 

Gavel. — The  Nubility  and  Commonalty. — Mackintosh  Charter. — 
Herezeld  Blodwite. — Ward  and  Relief.  —  Marriage  Law.  —  Hand- 
fasting.— State  and  Wealth  of  Highland  Princes  ....  391 



The  Celtic  Church. — Its  Character. — Its  Decay, — Rise  of  Latin  Church. — 
Diocese  of  Isles. — Somerled  in  Man. — S.  Machutus. — Saddell. — Its 
Foundation  and  Endowment. — Tayinloan. — Abbey  of  lona  Built  and 
Religious  Orders  Established  by  Reginald.  —  Connection  with 
Paisley.  —The  Good  John  and  his  Wife  as  Church  Patrons. — Oransay 
Priory.  —  Trinity  Chapel,  Carinish. — Grimsay  Oratory.  —  Sons  of 
John  of  Isla  and  the  Church. — Howmore.—  Earls  of  Ross. — 
Education,— Art 446 


Charter  by  Reginald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Paisley  Abbey  .  .485 
Charter  by  Donald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Paisley  Abbey .  .  .  486 
Charter  by  Angus  Macdonald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Paisley  Abbey .  487 
Confirmation  of  the  Gift  of  the  Church  of  St.  Kiaran,  in  Kintyre,  by 

Angus  Macdonald  of  Islay,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Paisley  Abbey  .  .  487 
Gift  of  the  Church  of  St.  Kiaran  1:>}'  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles, 

to  Paisley  Abbey 488 

Safe  Conduct  to  Angus  Macdonald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Alexander, 

his  son ...  489 

Agreement  by  Angus  Macdonald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Alexander, 

his  son,  to  keep  the  peace  within  the  Isles  ......  489 

Summons  to  John  Balliol  from  Edward  I.,  concerning  Alexander  of  Isla, 

Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Juliana,  his  wife        ......  490 

Appointment  of  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  as  Bailie  of  Kintyre, 

by  Edward  1 491 

Grant  by  Edward  I,  to  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  .  .  .  491 
Commission  by  Edward  I.  to  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  arrest 

the  rebels  of  Argyle  and  Ross 492 

Statement  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in  which  he  vindicates 

his  conduct  ...........  492 

Letter  from  Angus  Og  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Edward  I.  .         .         .  494 

Charter  Ijy  Robert  I.  to  Roderick,  the  son  of  Allan    .....  495 

Confirmation  by  Edward  111.  of  Charter  by  Edward  Balliol  to  Jolui  of 

Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles 496 

Safe  Conduct  for  John  of  the  Isles  by  Edward  III 4J>7 



Safe  Conduct  for  John  of  the  Isles  by  Edward  III 497 

Commission  to  the  Earl  of  SaU.-sbury  to  treat  with  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of 

the  Isles 498 

Letter  from  Edward  III.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  .  .  ,  499 
Charter  by  David  11.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  ....  500 
Safe  Conduct  for  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  prisoner  in  Wales  .  .  501 
Confirmation  by  David  II.  of  Charter  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Islee  .  501 
Charter  by  Robert  II.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles    ....  501 

Death  of  Ranald  Macruari 502 

Confirmation  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Reginald. 

his  sou,  by  Robert  II. 502 

Charter  of  Robert  II.  of  the  Lands  of  Colousay  to  John  of  Islay,  Lord  of 

the  Isles 503 

Charter  of  Robert  II.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  of  the  Lands  of 

Lochaber     ............  504 

Charter  of  David  II.  to  John  of  Isla,  and  Margaret,  his  wife,  of  the  Lands 

of  Buchanan 504 

Safe  Conduct  for  Donald,  son  of  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  student 

at  Oxford    .....         .......  505 

Safe  Conduct  for  Hugh  of  the  Isles 505 

Commission  to  the  Bishop  of  the  Isles  to  treat  with  the  sons  of  John  of 

Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  .........  505 

Charter  by  Godfrey  Macdouald,  Lord  of  Uist,  to  the  Monastery  of  St 

John's,  Inchafiray £06 

Charter  by  Donald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Lachlau  Maclean  of  Dowart  507 
Safe  Conduct  for  John  Mor  Tanisteir,  and  Donald,  his  brother  .         .  508 

Aneut  Treating  with  Donald  of  the  Isles 509 

Latin  Poem  on  Somerled,  King  of  the  Isles,  and  Lord  of  Argyle        .         .  509 

Lines  on  Somerled 511 

Charter  by  Donald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Angus  Mackay  of  Strath- 

naver,  and  Neil,  his  son       .         .  .         .         .         .         .         .         .512 

Anent  Treating  with  Donald  of  the  Isles   .......  513 

Gaelic  Charter  by  Macdonald  to  Brian  Vicar  Mackay         ....  513 

Anent  Treating  with  Donald  of  the  Isles   .......  515 

Incitement  to  Battle  addressed  to  Macdouald  of  the  Isles  and  his  Army  at 

Harlaw  by  MacVuirich        .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .         ,516 

Charter  by  Donald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Maclean  ....  525 

The  Genealogy  of  Siol  Chuinn  from  Conn  to  Somerled      ....  525 

Charter  by  Alexa^ler  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to 

Alexander  M'CuUoch 527 

Charter  of  Confirmation  from  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  and  Lord  of 

the  Isles,  to  Sir  Walter  of  Innes,  Lord  of  that  Ilk  ....  528 
Charter  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to 

Hugh  Rose  of  Kih-avock 529 

Charter  of  Badenoch,  &c.,  by  the  Earl  of  Ross 530 

Precept  of  Sasine  in  favour  of  William,  Thane  of  Cawdor,  by  Alexander, 

Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles 531 

Charter  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  in  favour  oi  Alexander,  Earl 

of  Huntly 532 

Charter  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Roes,  to  Mackintosh         .         .         ,  533 

CONTEN'fS.  Xxl. 

Confirmation    by    James    II.    of    Charter   bji-  the  Earl  of  to  John 

Ski'imgeom-e       ...........  534 

Charter  of  the  Bailliary  of  Lochaber  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 

Malcolm  Mackintosh 535 

Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  the  Master 

of  Sutherland     ...........  535 

Grant  of  Kilkerran  Church  to  Paisley  Abbey,  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of 

Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles  .........  536 

The  Clan  Macinnes ,  537 

Precept  of  Sasine  in  favour  of  William,  Thane  of  Cawdor,  by  John  of  Isla, 

Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles      .......  537 

Precept  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  in  favour  of  Thomas  of  Dingwall  .  538 
Precept  of  Sasine  in  favour  of  John  Munro  of  Fowlis  by  John  of  Isia,  Earl 

of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles      .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .539 

Charter  to  Donald  Coi-batt  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross  ....  539 

Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  to  Thomas,  younger  of  Dingwall, 

by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross 541 

Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to  the  Abbey  of  Fearn  .  .  .  541 
Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to  his  brother,  Celestine .  .  .  543 
Confirmation  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  of  the  lands  of  Innermerky  to 

William  of  Cawdor      .         .........  545 

Charter  of  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross  .......  545 

Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 

Thomas  Cuming 546 

Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to  John  Davidson   ....  546 

Deed  by  Donald  Balloch  Macdonald 548 

Armorial  Bearings  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  ..,,,.  548 
Commission  to  the  Earl  of  Lennox  to  carry  through  the  forfeiture  of  the 

Earl  of  Ross 550 

Articles  of  Agreement  between  James  III.  and  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the 

Isles 553 

Charter  by  James  III.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  ....  564 
Charter  by  James  III.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles  ....  556 
Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross, 

to  Walter  Ogilvy 557 

Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 

John  Davidson  ...........  557 

Charter  by  James  III.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles    ....  559 

Charter  by  James  III.  to  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles    ....  560 

Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles, 

to  Alexander  Lesly  .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .561 

Confirmation  by  James  III.  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles, 

to  John  Davidson         ..........  562 

Confirmation  by  James  IV.  of  Cliarter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 

the  Captain  of  Clan  Chattan        ........  562 

Confirmation  by  James  IV.  of  Charter  by  John  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 

JIughof  Sleat 563 

Confirmation  by  James  IV.  of  Charter  by  Alexander  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the 

Isles,  to  Macueill  of  Barra 563 



Confirmation  b}-  James  IV.  of  Charters  l>y  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  to  the 

Abbey  of  Saddell .564 

Confirmation  by  James  IV.  of  Charter  by  Roderick,  the  son  of  Reginald  .  565 
Confirmation  by  James  IV.  of  a  Charter  of  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  of  the 

I'atronage  of  Kilberry  Church 565 

Charter  of  Modification  to  the  Bishop  of  Lismore 565 

Poem  on  the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  hy  O'Heiuia      ......  566 

Poem  on  the  Macdonalds,  by  Gillecallum  Mac-an-Ollaimh.         .         .         .  566 

Poem  on  John  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the  Isles 567 

Poem  on  Angus  Og  Macdonald,  by  John  of  Knoydart  ....  568 
Poem  on  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Angus,  his  son,  by  Gillecallum 

Mac-an-Ollaimh  ...........  509 

1700  MS.  on  the  Marriage  of  John  of  Isla 570 

1700  MS.  on  the  Marriage  of  Angus  Og 570 



Gaelic  Charter  by  Donald,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  1408 1 

Dun  Aonghais,  North  Uist 16 

Dun  Torquil,  North  Uist 16 

Ruins  of  Saddell  Monastery,  the  Burial-place  of  Somerled       ...  54 

Seal  of  Reginald,  son  of  Somerled    ........  64 

Kilkerran  Loch,  Kintyre           .........  65 

Fac-simile  of  Letter  of  Angus  Og,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  Edward  I.,  1301 .  80 

Fac-simile  of  Letter  by  Angus  Mor  and  Alexander,  Lords  of  the  Isles, 

to  Edward  1 82 

Seal  of  Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Fac-simile  of  Superscription     .  88 

Saddell  Castle 92 

Angus  Og  at  Bannockburn,  1314 96 

Finlaggan  Castle 101 

Tombstone  of  Angus  Og  of  Islay,  and  Seal  of  Angus  Mor         .         ,         .102 

Aros  Castle,  Mull 104 

Ruins  of  Borve  Castle,  Benbecula     .         .         .         ,         .         .         .         .117 

Ruined  Keep  of  Ardthornish  Castle          .*....,  126 

Castle  Tirrim 128 

Shield  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  .         .         .         .         '         .         .         .136 

Battle  of  Harlaw,  1411 160 

Battle  of  Inverlochy,  1431 184 

Inverlochy  Castle 192 

Sigillum  Alexaudri  de  Yle,  Domini  Insularum  et  Rossie  ....  199 

Armorial  Bearings  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles       ......  208    '""^ 

Fac-simile  of  Writ  appointing  English  Commissioners  to  treat  with  John, 

Earl  of  Ross,  at  Ardthornish,  Rotuli  Scotia?,  1461      ....  233 

Armorial  Bearings  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles       ......  272    ^ 

Fac-simile  of  Signatures  of  John  Carswell  and  Archibald  Macgillivray     .  336 
Fac-simile  of  Donald  Dubh's  Letter  to  Henry  VIIL,  1545         .         .         .344 

Ruins  of  Knock  Castle,  Sleat    .........  352 

Signatures  to  Agreement  between  Henry  VIIL  and  Deputies  of  Donald 

Dubh 382 

Fac-simile  of  Signatures  of  the  Island  Barons  to  the  Commission  from 

the  Lord  of  the  Isles  of  Scotland  to  treat  with  the  King  of  England  384 

Part  of  the  Ruins  of  Saddell  Monastery 459 

Abbey  Church,  loua 464 

Ruins  of  Oronsay  Priory  ..........  470 

Ruins  of  St  Mary's  and  St  Columba's  Churches,  Howmore,  South  Uist  .  472 

^Yindow  of  St  Columba's  Church,  Morveru 476 

Celtic  Cross  at  Morvern 477 

Ruins  of  Trinity  Temple,  Carinish,  North  Uist 480 

Charter  by  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  1476 .         .         .    beginning  of  Appendices 


Macdonald  of  the  Isles,   The   Right  Hon.   The  Lady,  Armadale 

Castle,  Skye. 
Atholl,  His  Grace  The  Duke  of,  Blair  Castle,  Blair-Atholl. 
D'Oyley,  The  Most  Hon.  The  Marchioness  {nee  Macdonald),  Paris 

(3  copies). 
Antrim,  The  Right  Hon.  The  Earl  of,  Glenarm  Castle,  Co.  Antrim. 
Lovat,  The  Right  Hon.  The  Lord,  Beaufort  Castle,  Inverness-shire. 
Macdonald,    The   Hon.   Hugh  J.    (heir  to  the   British   Barony  of 

Macdonald  of  EarnsclifFe),  Winnipeg,  Manitoba,  Canada. 
Macdonald    of    Clanranald,   Admiral    Sir  Reginald,    1a    Ovington 

Square,  London  (3  copies). 
Aylmer  Morley,  Mrs,  Whiterdine,  Founhope,  Herefordshire. 
Bain,  James,  Esq.,  chief  librarian,  Public  Library,  Toronto. 
Barret,  F.  T.,  Esq.,  Mitchell  Library,  Glasgow. 
Barron,  James,  Esq.,  Courier  Ofhce,  Inverness. 
Bethell,  W.,  Esq.,  Rise  Park,  Hull. 
Blair,  Sheriff,  Ardross  Terrace,  Inverness. 
Buchanan,  A.  W.,  Esq.,  Polmont. 
Cameron,  Donald,  Esq.,  Lochgorm,  Inverness. 
Cameron,  Diuican,  Esq.,  Fettes,  Muir  of  Ord. 
Cazenove,  C.  D.,  Esq.,  bookseller,  London. 
Clark,  Colonel,  of  Ballindoun,  Ballindoun  House,  Beauly. 
Clark,  G.  T.,  Esq.,  London. 
Cooke,  Mrs,  Raeburn,  Boscombe,  Bournemouth. 
Cunninghame,  John,  Esq.  of  Balgownie,  Culross. 
Darroch,  Duncan,  Esq.  of  Torridon. 
Dow,  The  Rev.  John,  Manse  of  Knockbain,  Munlochy. 
Drayton,  Mrs,  Gobborn  Park,  Lanes. 
Ellice,  C.  H.,  Esq.,  Brompton,  London. 
Fletcher,  J.  Douglas,  Esq.  of  Rosehaugh. 

Gibson,  The  Rev.  John  Mackenzie,  22  Regent  Terrace,  Edinburgh. 
Hay,  Colin,  Esq.,  Ardbeg,  Islay. 

Henderson,  George,  Esq.,  Ph.D.,  192  Morningside  Road,  Edinburgh. 
Macalister,  Major  C.  B.,  of  Gleubarr,  Kintyre. 


Macallister,  James,  Esq.,  wine  merchant,  Ballymeua,  Ireland. 

MacConnell,  Wm.,  Esq.,  Knockdolian,  Colraonell,  Ayrshire. 

M'Crindle,  John,  Esq  ,  Aiichinlee,  Ayr. 

Macdonald,  Alexander,  Esq.  of  Balranald  and  Edenwood,  Spring- 
field, Fife. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Alex.,  Napanse,  Ontario,  Canada. 

Macdonald,  A.,  Esq.,  Commercial  Bank  House,  Thurso. 

Macdonald,  A.  W.,  Esq.,  Invernevis,  Fort- William. 

Macdonald,  Andrew,  Esq.,  solicitor,  Inverness.  .     . 

Macdonald,  A.  R.,  Esq.,  Ord,  Isleornsay,  Skye. 

Macdonald,  Captain  Allan,  of  Waternish,  Fasach  Hoiise,  Portree 
(2  copies). 

Macdonald,  Allan,  Esq.,  LL.D.,  Gleuarm,  Co.  Antrim. 

Macdonald,  Andrew  H.,  Esq.,  of  Calrossie,  Rogart  Manse. 

Macdonald,  Angus,  Esq.,  Cunainbmitag,  Benbecnla. 

Macdonald,  Colonel,  of  Treaslan,  Portree,  Skye. 

Macdonald,  Charles,  Esq.,  247  Fifth  Avenue,  New  York. 

Macdonald,  Charles,  Esq.,  17  Oswald  Street,  Glasgow. 

Macdonald,  Dr  C.  R.,  7  Wellington  Square,  Ayr. 

Macdonald,  Charles  D.,  Esq.,  Rosario,  Argentine  Repnblic. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  (John,  Rogart  Manse,  Sutherlandshirc. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Donald,  minister  of  N.  Uist,  Lochmaddy. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  D.  J.,  Killean  Alanse,  Muasdale,  Kintyre. 

Macdonald,  Donald,  Esq.  of  Ramnierscales,  Locherbie. 

Macdonald,  D.  T.,  Esq.,  Calmult,  Michigan,  U.S.A. 

Macdonald,  Duncan,  Esq.,  2  Heriot  Row,  Edinburgh. 

Macdonald,  E.,  Esq.,  39  Donegal  Place,  Belfast. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Finlay  R.,  The  Manse,  Coupar-Angus. 

Macdonald,  Henry  M.,  Esq.,  34  Broad  Street,  New  York  City,  U.S.A. 

Macdonald,  H.  A.,  Esq.,  370  Great  Western  Road,  Glasgow. 

Macdonald,  Harry,  Esq.,  Viewfield,  Portree. 

Macdonald,  H.  L.,  Esq.  of  Dunach,  Dunach  House,  Oban. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Fred.  Charles,  M.A.,  vicar  of  St  Hilda's, 

Macdonald,  James,  Esq.,  W.S.,  Edinburgh. 

Macdonald,  James,  Esq.,  Moss  Cottage,  Benbecula. 

Macdonald,  J.  J.,  Esq.,  42  York  Place,  Edin})urgh. 

Macdonald,  John,  Esq.,  Keppoch,  Roy-Bridge. 

Macdonald,  J.  M.,  Esq.,  Harley  Street,  London. 

Macdonald,  Colonel  John  A.,  of  Glcnaladale,  Glenfinan. 

Macdonald,  Dr  Keith  Norman,  Gesto  Hospital,  Skye. 

Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Mosse,  M.A.,  St  Aidau's  College,  Birkenhead. 


Macdonald,  Peter,  Esq.,  Carlton  Place,  Glasgow. 
Macdonald,  Admiral  Robertson,  Edinburgh. 
Macdonald,  R.  M.  Livingstone,  Esq.,  Flodigarry,  Skye. 
Macdonald,  Ronald  Mosse,  Esq.,  The  Homestead,  Datchet. 
Macdonald,  The  Rev.  R.,  minister  of  South  Uist,  Lochboisdale. 
Macdonald,  Roderick,  Esq.,  17  Oswald  Street,  Glasgow. 
Macdonald,  Stuart  Hugh,  Esq.,  The  Homestead,  Datchet. 
Macdonald,  T.,  Esq.,  H.M.B.'s  Supreme  Court,  Shanghai,  China. 
Macdonald,  The  Rev.  Thomas  Mosse,  M.A.,  Canon  of  Lincoln  and 

Rector  of  Kersal. 
Macdonald,  W.  R.,  Esq.,  1  Forres  Street,  Edinburgh. 
Macdonald,  The  Hon.  W.  J.,  Armadale  House,  Vancouver,  British 

Macdonald,  Wm.  M.,  2nd  Batt.  Q.O.  Cameron  Highlanders. 
Macdonald,  Miss,  Barnfield  Hill,  Southampton. 
Macdonald,  Miss  Jone,  of  Milland  Place,  Sussex. 
Macdonell,  Dr.  D.,  17  Crumlea  Road,  Belfast. 
Macdonnell,    Hercules    H.    G.,    Esq.,    Barrister,    4    Roby    Place, 

Kingstown,  Ireland. 
Macdonnell,  James,  Esq.  of  Kilsharvan  and  Murlough,  Ireland. 
Macdonnell,  Colonel  John,  of  Kilmore,  County  Antrim. 
Macdonnell,  The  Very  Rev.  J.  Cotter,  D.D.,  Misterton  Rectory, 

Macdonell,  Miss  L.  C.  R.,  of  Glengarry,  Mavis  Bank,  Rothesay. 
Macdonell,    Mrs,    of   Keppoch,    86    Cambridge    Street,    Eccleston 

Square,  London. 
MacDougall,    E.    A.,    Esq.,    14    High    Street,    Eccleston    Square, 

London,  S.W. 
MacDowall,  The  Rev.  James,  The  Manse,  Rosemarkie. 
Macgregor,  D.  R.,  Esq.,  Melbourne,  Victoria. 
Maclnnes,  Lt.-Colonel  John,  Glendaruel,  Argyleshire. 
Mackay,  Eneas,  Esq.,  Stirling. 
Mackay,  John,  Esq.,  C.E.,  Hereford  (2  copies). 
Mackay,  Wm.,  Esq.,  solicitor,  Inverness. 

Mackenzie,  Colonel  Burton,  of  Kilcoy,  Kilcoy  Castle,  Muir  of  Ord. 
Mackenzie,  H.  H.,  Esq.,  Balelone,  Lochmaddy. 
Mackenzie,  The  Rev.  K.  A.,  LL.D.,  Manse  of  Kingussie. 
Mackenzie,  Thomas,  Esq.,  Daluaine. 
Mackenzie,  W.  Dalziel,  Esq.  of  Farr,  Inverness-shire. 
Mackintosh,  Charles  Eraser,  Esq.  of  Drummond. 
Maclean,  Alex.  Scott,  Esq.,  Greenock. 
Maclean,  Charles,  Esq.,  Milton,  South  Uist,  Lochboisdale. 


MacLaverty,  Grteme  A.,  Esq.  of  Chanting  Hall,  Hamilton. 

Macleay,  Murdo,  Esq.,  Broom  Cottage,  Ullapool. 

Macleod,  Colonel  John  X.,  of  Kintarbert  and  Saddell,  Saddell 
Castle,  Campbeltown. 

Macleod,  Norman,  Esq.,  Gaelic  bookseller,  The  Momid,  Edinburgh. 

Macrae,  The  Rev.  Alex.,  Emmanuel  School,  Wandsworth  Common, 
London,  S.W. 

Macrae,  The  Rev.  G.  W.  B.,  Manse  of  Cross,  Stornoway. 

Macrae,  John,  Esq.,  late  of  Langash,  North  Uist. 

Macquarrie,  The  Rev.  A.  J.,  Manse  of  Ferintosh. 

Martin,  Adam  W.,  Esq.,  Knock,  Belfast. 

Martin,  Major  Martin,  R.E.,  Howwood,  Renfrewshire. 

Mainwaring,  Charles,  Esq.,  Feugh  Cottage,  Banchory,  Aberdeen. 

Millar,  Miss  J.  Macdonald,  Courthill,  Hermitage  Gardens,  Edin- 

Moreton,  Lt. -Colonel  A.  H.  Macdonald,  Benbridge,  Isle  of  Wight. 

Morrison,  Dr  Alex.  C,  Lochside  Cottage,  Larkhall. 

Noble,  John,  Esq.,  Inverness  (9  copies). 

Pearson,  Dr  Archd.,  4  Middleton  Terrace,  Ibrox,  Glasgow. 

Pender-Smith,  Dr  J.,  Dingwall. 

Perrins,  Mrs  Dyson,  Davenham,  Malvern. 

Pryor,  Mrs,  Armadale,  Cecil  Road,  Boscombe,  Bournemouth. 

Rankin,  The  Rev.  E.  A.,  B.D.,  Kilmorack  Manse,  Beauly, 

Rawlins,  The  Rev.  J.  Arthur,  M.A.,  St.  Andrew's  Vicarage, 
Willesden,  London. 

Roberts,  Mrs  Vernon,  D\inloskin,  Kersal,  Manchester. 

Ryan,  Mrs  James,  Glenomera,  Cejdon. 

Sinclair,  The  Ven.  Wm.  Macdonald,  Archdeacon  of  London,  The 
Chapter  House,  St.  Paul's,  London. 

Sykes,  Harold  P.,  Esq.,  2nd  Dragoon  Giiards. 

Tolmie,  The  Rev.  A.  M.  C,  M.A.,  The  Manse,  Campbeltown. 

Yule,  Miss  A.  F.,  Tarradale  House,  Muir  of  Ord. 




Difficulties  of  the  Subject. — Primitive  Populations. — Picts  and 
Dalriads.  —  Union  of  Dalriada  and  Pictavia. — The  Norse 
Occupation. — Kingdom  of  Man  and  the  Isles. — Traces  of  the 
Norseman. — The  Gall-Gael. 

The  descent  and  early  history  of  the  Clan  Donald, 
like  those  of  the  other  Highland  clans,  are  involved 
in  much  obscurity.  From  the  materials  at  the 
disposal  of  the  historian,  it  is  difficult,  if  not  impos- 
sible, to  weave  anything  like  a  clear,  reliable,  or 
consistent  narrative.  Fact  and  fiction  are  so  often, 
mixed  up  together,  and  tradition  so  frequently  con- 
flicts with  what  is  regarded  as  authentic  history, 
that  the  task  of  the  historian  sometimes  assumes 
great,  perhaps  unmanageable,  proportions.  The 
Clan  Donald,  however,  occupy  so  conspicuous  and 
important  a  position  in  the  annals  of  the  country, 
that  any  attempt  to  throw  further  light  upon  its 
rise  and  history  may  be  regarded  as  worthy  of 
commendation,  even  should  it  meet  with  but  partial 

The  origin  of  this  Clan  is  bound  up  wiiii  some  of 
the  most  important  questions  of  Scottish  ethnology. 
In  order,  therefore,  to  lead  up  to  a  more  or  less 
clear  conception  of  the  subject,   it  seems  desirable 


2  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

that  we  should  have  recourse  to  the  scanty  materials 
available  for  the  construction  of  a  history  of  the 
early  inhabitants  of  the  country.  The  history 
of  Great  Britain,  so  far  as  it  has  been  written, 
commences  with  the  Koman  occupation,  about  the 
middle  of  the  first  century.  But  archaeologists, 
going  back  into  the  dim  and  hoary  past,  have  found 
vestiges  of  a  race  that  occupied  the  land  at  a  period 
long  prior  to  recorded  time.  Traces  have  been  dis- 
covered of  a  prehistoric  non-Aryan  race,  resembling 
the  Iberians  and  the  Aquitani,  a  race  short  statured, 
long  skulled,  dark  haired,  and  dark  complexion ed  ; 
that  lived  in  caves,  and  buried  their  dead  in  caves 
and  chambered  tombs  ;  the  representatives  of  the 
Stone  Age,  whose  polished  stone  weapons  of  various 
kinds  are  the  treasure  and  delight  of  the  antiquary. 
They  were  probably  the  same  race  as  the  ancient 
tin  miners  of  Cornwall,  to  whom  Herodotus  makes 
reference,  and  who,  from  their  practice  of  carrying 
bags  as  receptacles  for  the  metal,  are  supposed  to 
have  been  the Ji7'-holg  of  Irish  mythology.  To. them 
also  do  we  owe  the  so-called  Druidical  circles ; 
barrows,  and  other  stone  remains  which  are  found 
scattered  over  European  lands  ;  silent  witnesses  of 
the  oldest  phase  of  religious  culture  of  which  our 
Western  lands  bear  any  trace. 

Long  before  the  historical  period  a  new  wave,  a 
Celtic  Aryan  race,  Gaidhels  or  Goidels,  visited  our 
island,  and  pushed  the  aboriginal  race  into  the  more 
distant  and  inaccessible  mountainous  regions  to  the 
north  and  west.  They  spoke  a  language  which  is 
in  our  day  represented  by  the  Manx  Gaelic  and  the 
Gaelic  of  Scotland  and  Ireland.  These  in  their  turn 
were  followed  and  ])ressed  northwards  and  west- 
ward by  another  Celtic  Aryan  race,  the  Britons  or 


Brythons,  whose  language  now  survives  only  in 
Wales.  The  Gaidhels  were  probably  bronze  users, 
while  the  Brythonic  invaders — as  a  later  wave — 
were  versed  in  the  use  of  iron  tools  and  weapons. 

When  the  Romans  came  to  Britain  the  country 
was  more  or  less  divided  among  the  fore-mentioned 
races,  and  this  continued  very  much  the  case  until 
the  close  of  the  Koman  occupation  in  410  a.d. 

Confining  our  attention  to  Scotland,  we  find  that 
Roman  historians  make  mention  of  two  nations 
occupying  that  land  in  the  second  century,  whom 
they  denominate  the  Caledonii  and  the  Meatae. 
These  names  in  the  course  of  time  disappear,  and 
are  succeeded  by  the  Picti  and  Attacotti.  Such  a 
variety  of  names  is  perplexing  to  the  historian, 
but,  notwithstanding  much  ingenuity  displayed  by 
various  writers,  there  is  every  reason  to  believe  that 
they  are  all  applicable  to  the  one  Goedelic  race, 
which,  as  already  stated,  followed  the  pre-historic 
race  as  the  predominant  occupiers  of  the  North  of 
Scotland.  These  people,  properly  designated  as  the 
Alban  Gael,  though  territorially  divided  into  two 
or  more  provinces,  and  speaking  probably  slightly 
different  dialects  of  the  same  tongue,  were  yet  in  all 
racial  characteristics  one.  The  best  authorities  are 
agreed  that  they  were  homogeneous  with  the 
Cruithne  of  Ireland,  where,  as  in  Scotland,  they 
succeeded  the  Firbolg,  and  that  their  language, 
around  which  such  fierce  controversy  has  been 
waged,  was  an  archaic  type  of  our  modern  Scottish 
Gaelic.  The  date  of  their  advent  to  Scotland  is  of 
course  a  question  of  great  obscurity,  though  in  all 
probability  it  must  have  been  some  time  between 
500  and  300  B.C.  During  a  period  of  nearly  400 
years  this  brave  race  baffled  in  many  a  red  field  the 


mighty  legionaries  of  Eome,  and  though  time  and 
again  they  were  driven,  by  the  force  of  numbers 
and  superior  disciphne,  to  their  native  fastnesses, 
they  remained  unconquered. 

For  200  years  after  the  evacuation  of  Britain  by 
the  Romans,  the  history  of  Scotland  is  almost  a 
blank,  and  when,  in  the  beginning  of  the  seventh 
century,  the  light  of  history  again  dawns  upon  us, 
we  find  four  distinct  peoples  occupying  as  many 
different  districts  of  our  present  Scotland.  The 
Picts  or  Alban  Gael  have  to  all  appearance  absorbed 
and  assimilated,  or  at  any  rate  converted  to  their 
own  speech  and  social  customs,  the  non- Aryan 
people  they  found  in  the  land,  and  are  now  the 
predominating  race.  The  Britons  occupy  the 
region  of  Strathclyde,  while  two  new  races,  the 
Angles  and  the  Dalriadic  Scots,  have  made  settle- 
ments ^f  their  own.  The  Alban  Gael  occupied 
the  country  north  of  the  Firth  of  Forth  ;  the 
Britons  the  region  of  Strathclyde,  and  thence 
south  to  Cumberland  ;  the  Angles  that  fi'om 
the  Forth  to  the  Humber  ;  and  the  Scots  of  Dalriada 
the  country  afterwards  known  as  Oirirghaidheal, 
Islay,  a  part  of  Mull  and  some  of  the  lesser  Southern 
Isles. ^  These  four  races  are  on  the  whole  the 
materials  out  of  which  the  modern  Scottish  nation 
has  been  formed,  and  it  is  clear  that  even  the 
Lowland  Scot  has  in  him  as  much  of  the  Celt 
as  of  the  Teuton.  As  regards  the  Iberian  or 
pre-historic  i)opulation,  it  is  probable  that  the  type, 
though  absorbed  as  to  language  and  social  life 
into  the  larger  and  more  })owerful  organism  of 
the  Celt,  yet  in  its  physical  characteristics  still 
survives    in     the     small,     dark -haired,     black-eyed 

^  Vide  Map  of  Four  Kingdoms  in  Skene's  Celtic  Scotland. 


natives  of  parts  of  the  north-west  of  Scotland,  as 
it  is  also  to  be  found  in  Wales,  as  well  as  in  Ireland 
west  of  the  Shannon.  Every  nation  is  more  or  less 
a  blend  of  several  nationalities  ;  but  nowhere  is  this 
more  marked  than  in  the  Scottish  Highlands,  where 
there  seems  to  be  more  of  an  admixture  of  races 
than  in  any  country  in  Europe  of  the  same  size. 

As  already  indicated,  the  Picts  or  Alban  Gael 
occupied  by  far  the  greater  portion  of  the  country. 
To  the  north  of  the  Firth  of  Forth  they  were 
divided  into  the  Northern  and  Southern  Picts  ;  the 
former  holding  the  country  north  of  the  Grampians, 
and  the  latter  inhabiting  the  region  from  that 
mountain  range  south  to  the  Firth  of  Forth.  Not 
only  so,  but  in  the  counties  of  Wigtown  and  Kirk- 
cudbright there  was  a  settlement  of  what  were 
called  the  Niduarian  Picts,  and  in  the  debateable 
region  south  of  the  Firth  of  Forth  they  had  settle- 
ments in  the  neighbourhood  of  Edinburgh,  and  have 
left  traces  of  their  presence  in  the  name  of  the 
Pentland  Hills. 

The  founders  of  the  Scottish  kingdom  of  Dalriada 
were  also  an  offshoot  of  the  Goedelic  branch  of  the 
Celtic  tree.  Both  in  Scotland  and  Ireland  they  are 
found  appearing  at  a  period  subsequent  to  the 
Cruithne.  The  kingdoms  of  the  Picts  and  of  the 
Scots  seem,  in  fact,  to  have  been  two  collateral 
Gaelic  nationalities,  with  well-defined  dynasties  and 
territories,  embracing  regions  in  both  lands.  Most 
writers  are  agreed  that  the  colony  of  Irish  Scots 
settled  permanently  in  Argyll  about  the  beginning 
of  the  sixth  century.  That  for  several  centuries 
prior  to  that  date  there  had  been  Irish  immigrations 
to  the  Scottish  coast  on  a  greater  or  lesser  scale 
seems  highly  probable.      Indeed,  when  we  bear  in 


mind  the  nearness  of  Kintyre  to  the  North  of 
Ireland,  intercourse  must  have  been  frequent  in  very 
early  times.  During  the  Koman  occupation  mention 
is  frequently  made  by  historians  of  the  wandering 
Irish,  who,  like  the  Scandinavians  of  later  days, 
infested  the  coastlands  of  Scotland,  and  at  times 
carried  their  predatory  incursions  into  the  heart  of 
the  country.  Irish  historians  have  sometimes  proved 
imaginatis^e  guides  in  threading  the  mazes  of  these 
early  centuries.  Yet  there  is  nothing  inherently 
improbable  in  the  statement  that  the  first  Dalriadic 
settlers  were  brought  over  to  Scotland  in  the  middle 
of  the  third  century  by  Cairbre  Riada  ;  meaning  the 
Ruadh  or  red-haired,  after  whom  a  territory  in  the 
North  of  Ireland,  the  Houtes  and  Glens,  derives  its 
name.^  The  centre  of  these  early  settlements  was 
Kintyre,  whose  ancient  name  of  Dalruadhain  was  a 
form  of  the  Irish  Dalriada.  The  theory  that  the 
King  of  the  Alban  Gaels  or  Picts,  finding  his 
kingdom  harassed  by  the  Britons  of  Strath clyde  on 
the  one  hand,  and  the  Angles  on  the  other,  invited 
the  Dalriads  to  Argyll,  seems,  all  things  considered, 
a  highly  probable  one.  They  were  not  destined, 
however,  to  keep  the  peace  long  with  any  of  the 
neighbouring  nationalities,  and  their  future  relations 
with  the  Alban  Gael  is  a  long  story  of  strife  and 

When  we  come  to  the  middle  of  the  fifth  century 
we  stand  upon  firmer  historical  ground.  About  that 
time,  perhaps  a  little  later.  Ere,  King  of  Dalriada, 
died,  leaving  three  sons,  Fergus,  Lorn,  and  Angus. 
A  dispute  arose  as  to  the  succession,  when,  according 
to  the  Celtic  law  of  Tanistry,  Olchu,  their  father's 
brother,  assumed  the  sceptre,   to  the   exclusion  of 

'  According  to  the  Anuals  of  the  Four  Masters,  in  506  a.d. 


Fergus,  the  eldest  son.  Thereupon  Fergus,  with 
his  two  brothers,  crossed  the  Irish  Channel,  after 
obtaining  the  blessing  of  St  Patrick,^  and  landed  on 
the  coast  of  Argyll,  with,  it  is  said,  only  one  hundred 
and  fifty  followers.  From  this  period  onwards  the 
history  of  Argyll  becomes  the  history  of  the  Scots 
Dalriads,  and  from  the  fact  that  we  find  no  record 
of  opposition  to  their  settlement,  we  may  infer  that 
the  inhabitants  must  have  been  largely  recruited 
from  the  same  Irish  stock  in  former  times.  The 
three  brothers  divided  the  country  into  three 
districts  ;  Lorn  occupying  the  district  which 
bears  his  name,  as  well  as  the  greater  portion  of 
Argyll,  while  Angus  acquired  the  lands  of  Islay  and 
Jura,  and  Fergus,  the  eldest,  possessed  Kin  tyre, 
and  on  the  death  of  Lorn  succeeded  him  in  his  exten- 
sive dominions.  All  three  were  dependent  upon  the 
Irish  kingdom  of  Dalriada.  This  subjection  to  the 
parent  stock  continued  for  more  than  sixty  years, 
and  until  the  time  of  Aidan,  when  finally,  by  the 
intervention  of  St  Columba,  it  was  agreed  at  the 
great  Council  of  Drumceat  to  free  the  Scots  Dalriads 
from  paying  the  customary  tribute,  thus  making 
them  an  independent  nation.  It  was  stipulated 
that  in  the  time  of  war  the  Scots  Dalriads  must 
assist  their  Irish  allies.  Aidan  thus  became  the  first 
King  of  Dalriada,  and  held  Court  at  Dunadd,  which 
became  the  capital  of  the  new  kingdom,  none  of  his 
predecessors  having  attained  a  higher  dignity  than 
that  of  Toiseach,  or  chief  ruler  of  a  tribe. 

After  the  period  at  which  we  have  now  arrived, 
it  is  unnecessary  to  follow  in  detail,  at  anyrate  at 
this  stage  of  our  work,  the  fortunes  or  the  genea- 
logies of  the  Dalriad,ic  kings  or  their  relations  to 

^  Albauic  Duau, 


other  Scottish  iiationahties.  Durii-kg  the  period 
leadint,'-  up  to  the  coiisohdatioii  of  Scottish  Dalriada, 
as  Avell  as  for  some  time  thereafter,  there  were  the 
usual  internal  broils  ;  Kintyre  against  Lorn,  and 
both,  singly  or  together,  against  the  Britons  of 
Strathclyde.  Much  of  the  civil  discord  sprang  from 
the  operation  of  the  Celtic  law  of  succes&ion,  in 
which  direct  hereditary  descent  often  conflicted  with 
the  will  and  interests  of  the  tribe.  In  time  the 
descendants  of  Angus  dropped  out  of  sight,  and  his 
family  became  extinct  in  the  male  line,  but  his 
grand-daughter  having  married  the  grandson  of 
Fergus  Mor,  his  possessions  were  added  to  those  of 
the  reigning  house  of  Dalriada. 

The  light  of  Scottish  history  waxes  very  dim 
during  the  sixth,  seventh,  and  eighth  centuries,  but 
it  seems  to  fail  us  altogether  in  the  ninth,  when 
there  is  in  truth  a  darkness  that  can  be  felt.  It 
would  appear,  however,  that  up  to  the  year  733  a.d. 
there  was  no  serious  collision  between  the  Dalriads 
and  their  neighbours  the  Alban  Gael.  But  in  that 
year  we  find  it  recorded  in  the  Annals  of  Ulster 
that  Angus  Mac  Fergus,  the  King  of  the  Alban 
Gael,  invaded  the  territory  of  the  Dalriads  with  a 
powerful  army,  and,  after  a  series  of  sanguinary 
combats,  defeated  them.  He  subdued  them  finally 
in  the  year  741,  and  added  Dalriada  as  a  province 
to  his  kingdom.  The  Annals  of  Ulster  of  that  year 
record  "  the  downfall  of  the  Dalriads  by  Angus  Mac 
Fergus."  This  Angus  Mac  Fergus  was  the  greatest 
of  all  the  kings  of  the  Alban  Gael,  if  the  Irish 
Annals  are  to  be  relied  on,  and  it  was  he  who  laid 
the  foundation  of  the  future  kingdom  of  present 


From  the  year  741  a.d.,  when  Dalriada  became 
a  province  of  the  Northern  Kingdom,  to  the  year 
843,  Scottish  history  is  intensely  obscure.  We  are 
not  disposed  to  adopt  either  of  the  extreme  views 
that  have  been  advanced  by  writers  as  to  the 
circumstances  leading  to  the  elevation  of  Kenneth 
MacAlpin  in  that  year  to  the  throne  of  a  united 
realm.  On  the  one  hand  the  older  view,  that  his 
accession  was  the  result  of  conquest,  in  the  course 
of  which  the  Pictish  race  was  annihilated  by  the 
Dalriadic  Scots,  is  an  absurd  and  thrice-exploded 
historical  fiction.  The  paternity  of  this  view  is 
undoubtedly  to  be  traced  to  the  monkish  writers  of 
St  Andrews,  who  inserted  it  in  their  Register  of 
that  See  in  the  year  1251,  or  400  years  after  the 
pretended  event.  John  of  Fordun,  that  prince  of 
fabulists,  gave  further  currency  to  that  and  other 
myths  in  his  Chronicle,  which  he  finished  about  the 
year  1400  a.d.  Other  monkish  writers  followed  in 
the  same  vein,  and  the  more  the  ball  of  fable  rolled 
the  more  it  gathered  volume,  until  it  became  at  last 
a  veritable  planet  in  the  ecclesiastical  nebula. 

From  other  sources,  such  as  Nennius,  the  Saxon 
Chronicler  of  891  a.d.,  the  Welsh  Triads,  the  Irish 
Annals,  and  the  Albanic  Duan,  it  seems  undoubted 
that  Kenneth  MacAlpm's  succession  to  the  Pictish 
Kingdom  was  based  on  his  descent  from  the  Pictish 
sovereigns.  Ungus,  King  of  the  Southern  Picts, 
had  a  sister  Ungusia,  who  married  Aycha  IV.,  King 
of  Scots,  and  their  son  Alpin,  who  succeeded  his 
father  early  in  the  ninth  century,  was  thus  con- 
nected in  the  female  line  with  the  royal  house  of 
Pictavia.  Succession  through  a  female  was  an 
ackRowledged  principle  of  Pictish  descent,  and  when 
the  throne  of  the  Picts  fell  vacant,  Kenneth,  the 


son  of  Al^^in,  laid  claim  to  it.  The  Southern  Picts 
as  a  nation  acquiesced  in  an  arrangement  which, 
while  it  gave  them  a  king  of  their  own  royal 
lineage,  made  at  the  same  time  for  peace  and  union 
between  races  that  had  so  much  in  common. 

On  the  other  hand  we  believe  it  to  be  equally 
mistaken,  to  maintain,  as  Dr  Skene  has  done,  that, 
when  Kenneth  MacAlpin  ascended  the  united 
throne,  Dalriada  had  sunk  into  utter  insignificance, 
and  ceased  to  have  any  existence  as  a  separate 
kingdom.  It  is  difficult  to  speak  definitely  of  a 
time  so  historically  dark,  and  we  cannot  say 
whether  Dalriada  regained  to  the  full  extent  its 
former  independence.  But  it  seems  clear  that, 
however  depressed  the  fortunes  of  this  kingdom 
may  have  been,  a  royal  descent  was  maintained 
from  father  to  son  until  the  ruling  family  of  Dal- 
riada was  able  to  provide  a  king  for  the  new  and 
united  realm  of  Alban. 

If  the  Picts  as  a  distinctive  race  seem  to  pass 
out  of  history  after  842  a.d.,  their  disappearance  is 
apparent  and  not  real.  The  King  of  the  Dalriads 
became  the  ruler  of  the  united  people,  and  the 
Dalriads  were  consequently  regarded  as  the  govern- 
ing and  presumably  the  dominant  race.  The  union 
further  welded  togetlier  nations  similar  in  language, 
customs,  and  social  institutions,  nations  that  quickly 
and  easily  amalgamated  into  one  national  system. 
Yet,  though  the  two  races  became  one  nation,  the 
actual  fusion  was  only  partial.  The  Picts  of  the 
Central  and  Northern  Highlands  were  little  if  at  all 
aftected  by  the  union  politically,^  socially,  or  racially, 
and  hence  we  may  regard  the  Highlanders  of  Perth- 

^  The  rict«  north  of  the  Grauiiiiaut;  were  not  of  course  included  in  the 
new  Kingtluni. 


shire  and  the  interior  of  Inverness- shire  as  the 
purest  representatives  of  the  ancient  GaeUc  stock 
of  Caledonia,  On  the  other  iiand,  the  Dah'iads 
remained  to  a  large  extent  a  distinct  people  within 
their  own  territory  of  Oirthirghael. 

The  Islands  as  well  as  the  Highlands  of  Scotland 
were  in  historic  times  originally  inhabited  by  the 
primitive  stock  of  Caledonia,  the  Picts,  or  Alban 
Gael,  with  probably  an  admixture  in  some  districts 
of  the  prehistoric  Iberian  population.  The  Hebrides, 
however,  owing  to  their  insular  position,  were  from 
the  beginning  of  the  ninth  century  subject  to  con- 
ditions which  had  a  far-reaching  effect  upon  their 
relations  to  the  mainland  of  Scotland.  Before  the 
union  of  the  Alban  Gael  and  the  Dalriadic  Scots, 
and  as  far  back  as  794  a.d.,  we  find  from  the 
Annals  of  Ulster  that  "  the  Islands  of  Britain  were 
ravaged  by  the  Gentiles."  Indeed,  we  can  gather 
from  hints  somewhat  dark  and  vague  that,  long 
before  they  had  effected  permanent  settlements  in 
the  Isles,  these  Gentiles  or  Scandinavian  pirates, 
whose  galleys  swept  the  northern  seas,  were  the 
scourge  and  terror  of  the  Hebrideans,  More  defin- 
itely tliey  were  Danes  and  Norwegians,  known  in 
the  Highlands  under  the  designation  respectively  of 
Duhhgall  and  Fionnghall,  or  both  together  as  Loch- 
lanaich.  The  Western  Isles,  the  theatre  of  their 
piratical  ravages,  came  to  be  known  to  the  Gael  as 
Imise-Gcdl,  or  the  Islands  of  the  Strangers,  to 
themselves  as  the  Sudereys,  or  Southern  Isles,  to 
distinguish  them  from  the  Nordereys  or  Orkneys. 

The  Danes  were  earlier  in  the  order  of  invasion, 
and  the  special  animosity  they  displayed  in  the 
ruthless  destruction  of  religious  houses  like  lona  and 
Lindisfarne,    and    the    consequent    destruction    of 

12  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

precious  historical  records,  are  traceable  to  well- 
known  contemporary  causes.  The  cruelties  which 
the  Emperor  Charlemagne  inflicted  upon  the  Pagan 
inhabitants  of  Saxony  and  North  Germany  lired  the 
Gothic  nations  with  hatred  towards  Christianity, 
and  explained  the  special  form  which  the  incursions 
of  the  Danes  assumed.  During  the  niiith  century 
these  sea  rovers  kept  the  Islands  and  the  Western 
seaboard  in  a  state  of  perpetual  turmoil  impossible 
either  to  conceive  or  describe. 

When  watclifires  burst  across  the  main 
From  Rona,  and  Uist,  and  Skye, 
To  tell  that  the  ships  of  the  Dane 
And  the  red-haired  slayer  were  nigh  ; 
Our  Islesmen  rose  from  their  slumbers, 
And  buckled  on  their  arms, 
But  few,  alas  !  were  their  nunibei's 
To  Lochlin's  mailed  swarms  ; 
And  the  blade  of  the  bloody  Norse 
Has  filled  the  shores  of  the  Gael 
With  many  a  floatiur  corse 
And  many  a  widow's  wail. 

The  Danes,  however,  never  made  settlements  in 
the  Scottish  Isles,  whose  history  for  three  hundred 
years,  from  about  800  A.D.,  is  bound  up  with  the 
Norwegian  invasion.  This  invasion  caused  the 
erection  of  Norwegian  kingdoms  in  "reland  and  in 
the  Western  Isles.  The  Isle  of  Man  and  the 
Southern  Isles  of  Scotland  were  the  centre  of  the 
Norwegian  settlements  in  the  north-west  of  Eui'ope. 
From  these  islands,  which  were  peculiarly  adapted 
as  strongholds  for  the  Vikings,  whose  strength  lay 
in  their  large  and  well-built  ships,  the  tide  of 
invasion  flowed  in  various  directions,  and  the  sur- 
viving records  of  the  age  derive  much  of  their 
interest  from  the  adventures  of  these  kings  of  the 


In  considering  the  origin  of  this.  Norwegian 
invasion,  we  find  tliat  it  is  largely  accounted  for  by 
a  political  revolution  which  occurred  in  Norway, 
There,  as  elsewhere,  the  tendency  of  things  has  lain 
in  the  absorption  of  petty  nationalities  in  a  larger 
imperial  unity.  In  or  aljout  the  year  875  a.d., 
according  to  the  sagas,  Harold  Harfager,  or  the 
Fair-haired,  one  of  the  grea.test  and  bravest  on  the 
long  roll  of  Scandinavian  heroes,  having  suppressed 
the  power  of  a  number  of  minor  chiefs,  established 
himself  as  King  of  the  whole  of  Norway.  Many  of 
the  independent  petty  princes  or  jarls  opposed  his 
pretensions  and  disputed  his  title  to  the  crown. 
Hather  than  submit  to  his  rule,  and  fearing  his 
vengeance,  some  of  these  princes  took  refuge  in  the 
Western  Isles,  and,  uniting  their  forces  there,  they 
began  to  harass  Harold's  domains.  Exasperated  by 
these  frequent  incursions,  Harold  resolved  to  pursue 
his  enemies  to  their  retreat  in  the  Western  Isles. 
He  prosecuted  the  campaign  with  great  vigour,  and 
his  progress  was  so  irresistible  that  in  a  short  time 
he  made  a  total  conquest  of  Man,  the  Hebrides, 
Shetland  and  Orkney,  including  Caithness.  It  is 
difficult  even  now  ;  how  much  more  so  must  it  have 
been  in  that  remote  age  ?  to  preserve  the  loyalty  of 
a  colony  of  diverse  races  so  far  from  the  imperial 
centre ;  and  the  difficulty  was  continually  arising 
during  the  Norwegian  occupation  of  the  Isles.  The 
very  next  year  after  the  conquest  we  find  the  Isles 
in  open  rebellion  against  the  royal  authority.  The 
Norwegian  sagas  differ  as  to  the  details  of  the  re- 
conquest  of  the  Isles.  According  to  some,  such  as 
the  Zandnama,  Harold  dispatched  a  trusty  cousin 
and  councillor,  the  happy  possessor  of  the  euphoni- 
ous name  of  Ketil  Flatnose,  to  restore  peace  and 

14  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

good  government  among  his  island  subjects.  This 
the  flat-nosed  one  very  soon  succeeded  in  doing,  but 
he  accomplished  more  :  he  declared  himself  King  of 
the  Isles.  According  to  another  and  more  probable 
version  of  the  story — the  Lax?ela-saga  —  Ketil 
emigrated  from  Norway  to  the  Isles,  not  as  the 
viceroy  of  Harold,  but  because,  like  the  other  minor 
potentates  of  Norway,  he  was  obnoxious  to  him  and 
unable  to  resist  his  power.  All  the  accounts,  how^- 
ever,  agree  in  saying  that  Ketil  exercised  something 
like  supreme  power  in  the  Isles  during  the  remainder 
of  his  life.  Flatnose  was  followed  by  a  succession  of 
kings,  though  not  of  his  owai  line,  whose  identity  on 
the  broad  plain  of  history  is  not  easily  discernible  in 
the  absence  of  any  law  of  hereditary  succession  to 
guide  us.  To  attempt  to  bring  historical  order  out 
of  the  chaos  in  which  that  succession  is  involved 
passes  the  wit  of  man.  Sufiice  it  to  say  that  these 
kings  or  rulers  of  the  Isles,  with  few  interruptions, 
followed  one  another,  either  from  Norway  or  Orkney 
or  from  Man  or  Ireland,  until  Man  and  the  Isles 
were  finally  added  to  Scotland  by  purchase  in  the 
latter  half  of  the  thirteenth  century.  After  the 
defeat  of  Haco  at  Largs,  and  his  subsequent  death 
at  Kirkwall,  in  Orkney,  his  son  and  successor, 
Magnus,  entered  into  a  treaty  with  Alexander  III. 
of  Scotland,  whereby  the  latter  acquired  Man  and 
the  Isles  for  the  sum  of  400  merks  sterling,  with  the 
additional  annual  ])ayment  to  Norway  of  100  merks 
sterling,  to  be  paid  in  the  Church  of  St  Magnus  in 

It  is  difficult  to  give  anything  like  a  true  or 
faithful  picture  of  the  condition  of  the  Western 
Isles  during  the  Norse  occupation.  It  does  not  seem 
at    all    clear    that    the    character    of    the    Celtic 


population,  or  its  social  institutions  any  more  than 
its  language,  underwent  any  palpable  or  material 
alteration.  Some  admixture  of  Teutonic  blood  may 
be  inferred  from  the  strongly-marked  Scandinavian 
features  sometimes  seen  in  the  inhabitants  of  the 
Hebrides,  especially  in  the  Island  of  Lewis.  The 
native  Celt  largely  predominated  all  along,  but  it  is 
undoubted  that  the  blood  of  the  brave  old  Vikings 
courses  through  the  veins  of  some  of  the  best  types 
of  the  Scottish  Highlander.  It  is  also  permissible 
to  think  that  this  Teutonic  strain,  with  its 
characteristic  tenacity  of  purpose  and  sustained 
power  of  effort,  combined  with  Celtic  brilliancy  and 
emotional  fervour,  differentiates  the  Highlanders  of 
the  West  from  more  purely  Celtic  nations,  and 
places  them,  both  in  war  and  peace,  in  the  front  rank 
of  Euro])ean  races.  Considering,  however,  that  the 
Norsemen  and  the  Celts  of  the  Isles  seem  to  have 
lived  on  terms  of  mutual  friendship  after  the  time  of 
Harold  Harfager,  it  is  singular  that  the  former  did 
not  leave  a  deeper  or  more  permanent  impression. 
The  explanation  probably  is  to  be  found  very  much 
in  the  words  of  Gregory,  with  whom  in  this  matter 
we  are  disposed  to  agree,  "  that  as  in  all  cases  of 
conquest  the  change  in  the  population  must  have 
been  most  perceptible  in  the  higher  ranks,  owing  to 
the  natural  tendency  of  invaders  to  secure  their 
new  possessions  where  practicable  by  matrimonial 
alliances  with  the  natives."  In  some  respects,  how- 
ever, the  Norseman  has  left  his  mark  upon  the 
Western  Isles.  While  the  language  of  the  people 
was  preserved  unaffected  by  the  invader,  the  place 
names  both  in  the  Isles  and  coastlands  of  Scotland 
bear  extensive  traces  of  liis  influence.  The  Celtic 
system    of  land    tenure,    which    was  purely  tribal, 


seems  to  have  been  largely  modified,  and  the  system 
of  rent  borrowed  from  the  Teuton  meets  us  in  the 
farthing-lands,  penny-lands,  and  merklands  to  be 
found  in  ancient  valuations  and  conveyances  of 
landed  property.  In  the  folk-lore  of  the  Hebrides, 
Lochlin  and  its  kings  frequently  appear ;  and 
altogether,  in  a  variety  of  ways  not  affecting  the 
deeper  or  more  characteristic  life  of  the  people,  the 
footprints  of  the  Norseman  are  to  be  seen. 

Before  proceeding  to  consider  the  descent  of  the 
Clan  Donald,  which  we  purpose  doing  in  the  next 
chapter,  it  is  necessary  that  we  should  take  note  of 
a  people  called  the  Gall-Gael,  wlioni  we  liud  in  the 
reign  of  Kenneth  MacAlpin  appearing  as  the  allies 
of  the  Scandinavian  pirates,  and  joining  ,  them 
everywhere  in  their  depredations.  The  peculiar 
combination  of  the  word  Gall,  with  Gael  as  the 
qualitative  part  of  the  compoimd,  is  naturally 
somewhat  puzzling  to  the  historian,  especially  as 
the  historical  references  to  these  people  are  neither 
numerous  nor  distinct.  The  name  Gall  has  always 
been  applied  by  the  Gael  to  foreigners  or  strangers, 
to  men  of  different  race  and  language  from 
themselves.  It  was  first  applied  by  them  to  the 
Saxons  of  Northumbria.  The  name  of  Gall-Gael 
was  first  applied  by  the  Irish  to  the  Picts  of 
Galloway,  because  the  inhabitants  of  Galloway,  being 
of  the  Cruithne  or  Pictish  race,  and  thus  Celtic,  had 
for  long  been  under  the  rule  of  the  Saxon  Gall  of 
Northumbria,  Afterwards  the  name  came  to  be 
applied  to  Western  Gaels,  who,  in. their  characteristic 
modes  of.  life,  and  possibly  filso  through  a  fusion  of 
races,  came  to  resemble  the  Scandinavians  of  the 
Hebrides.  They  were  Galls,  that  is  strangers,  in 
t-lie  .sense  that. they  had.  no  settled  homes,  and,  as 





such,  were  sea  rovers  or  pirates  after  the  fashion  of 
the  Scandinavians  of  Innse-Gcdl.  But  they  we^e 
also  Gaels,  recruited  from  various  branches  of  the 
Celtic  race,  from  Pictavia,  Dalriada,  and  Ireland.  Tt 
is  clear  therefore  that  the  Gall- Gael  were  not  a  race 
of  Gaels  hound  together  by  ties  of  blood  and  kinship, 
but  Gaels  whose  bond  of  union  was  that  they  were 
engaged  in  similar  jDursuits.  But  it  seems  necessary 
also  to  state  that  the  Gall-Gael  apparently  received 
their  name  not  alone  because  the  G^el  conformed  to 
the  wild  roving  habits  of  the  Norse  Vikings,  but 
because  the  two  were  blended  in  one,  and  constituted 
one  band  of  sea  robbers.  This,  we  think,  is  clearly 
proved  by  their  being  so  often  referred  to  as  North- 
men. There  seems  no  evidence  whatever  to  show, 
notwithstanding  the  authority  of  Dr  Skene,  that  the 
Gall- Gael  were  a  race  of  Celts  with  territorial 
dignities  or  possessions.  They  were  Gaelic  pirates 
banded  with  the  Norwegians  ;  only  this  and  nothing 
more.  They  aj)pear  and  flit  before  us  for  a  time  on 
the  stage  of  history,  and  disappear  mysteriously 
without  leaving  one  trace  of  their  identity,  neither 
territory  nor  pedigree,  not  even  one  name  handed 
down  ;  merry-dancers  on  the  horizon,  phantoms 
which  cross  our  threshold  to  ruffle  the  serenity 
of  our  historical  calm. 




Rise  of  the  Kingdom  of  Alban. — Rise  and  Growth  of  English 
Influence. — Feudal  Scotland. — Origin  of  the  Clan  Donald. — 
Theories  on  the  Subject. — The  Dalriadic  Origin. — Genealogy 
of  the  Clan  down  to  Somerled. 

Before  introducing  upon  the  historical  stage  the 
dynasty  of  Celtic  princes,  known  as  the  Kings  and 
Lords  of  the  Isles,  it  will  conduce  to  clearness  of 
historical  perspective  if  we  trace  briefly  the  rise  of 
the  kingdom  of  Alban,  and  its  gradual  development 
into  feudal  Scotland.  The  period  in  Scottish  history 
covered  by  the  ninth,  tenth,  and  eleventh  centuries 
witnessed  the  growth  of  this  larger  imperial  unity, 
which  commenced  to  be  realised  in  the  reign  of 
Kenneth  MacAlpin.  The  new  name  of  Alban,  by 
which  the  Kingdom  of  Scone  came  to  be  known  in 
the  reign  of  Donald,  the  son  of  Constantino,  does 
not  appear  to  have  arisen  from  the  addition  of  any 
new  territory  acquired  since  the  union  of  Pictavia 
and  Dalriada,  and  there  seems  to  be  no  explanation 
of  the  change,  beyond  the  fact  that  we  find  it 
recorded  in  the  Irish  Annals  for  the  first  time  during 
his  reign.  Thereafter,  the  Kings  were  no  longer 
designated  Rages  Pictorum,  but  Bi  Alban,  and  in 
the  Pictish  Chronicle  Pictavia  gives  place  to 

It  does  not  appear  that  Northern  Pictdom, 
though  reckoned  nominally  a  province  of  Alban, 
ever   became    fully    incorporated    with    it    while    it 


retained  that  name.  The  relationship  between  the 
Northern  and  Southern  Picts  after  the  accession 
of  Kenneth  MacAlpin  is  exceedingly  difficult  to 
define.  It  seems,  however,  a  fair  inference  from 
the  dim  history  of  those  ages  that  the  division 
between  the  two  peoples  was  not  merely  geo- 
graphical. The  union  of  Dalriada  and  Southern 
Pictavia  would  have  been  regarded  with  little 
favour  by  the  Picts  of  the  North,  especially  as 
the  accession  of  the  King  of  Dalriada  to  the  Pictish 
throne  gave  the  Scots  the  prestige  of  a  dominant 
race,  and  had  the  effect  of  alienating  two  com- 
munities that  were  at  first  homogeneous.  Further- 
more, the  inroads  of  the  Scandinavian  marauders  all 
along  the  coastlands  of  the  Northern  Gael  stimulated 
the  exercise  of  the  law  of  self-preservation  ;  threw 
them  back  upon  their  own  resources  ;  consolidated 
their  organic  unity,  and  welded  them  more  and 
more  into  a  distinct  and  separate  people.  During 
the  succeeding  centuries,  and  until  the  unity  of  the 
Scottish  realm  was  finally  accomplished,  the  North 
presents  a  scene  of  conflict  and  confusion  more 
intense,  if  possible,  than  is  found  in  other  parts 
of  North  Britain.  The  struggle  for  independence 
was  long  and  persistent,  and,  though  more  than 
once  compelled  to  yield  to  the  invader,  the  Northern 
Gael  was  able  to  cast  off  the  alien  yoke  and  assert 
his  ancient  independence.  Thus  it  was  that, 
hemmed  in  on  the  one  hand  by  Scandinavian 
incursions,  and  on  the  other  by  their  neighbours 
and  kinsmen  from  the  South,  we  find  the  men  of 
the  North,  now  under  the  sway  of  the  Norwegian 
Earls  of  Orkney,  now  under  the  Kings  of  Alban, 
and  at  intervals  independent  of  both,  under  their 
own    Mormaors.     This    state   of  matters  continued 

20  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

until,  finally,  in  the  reign  of  David  I.,  the  province 
was  ceded  by  conquest  to  the  Scottish  Crown. 

We  may  now  briefly  indicate  the  extension  of 
the  Kingdom  of  Alban  towards  the  South  and  East, 
and  the  causes  that  moulded  it  under  one  feudal 
monarchy.  The  history  of  Alban  is  parallel  in  many 
respects  to  that  of  the  Northern  Province.  Besieged, 
on  the  one  hand,  by  the  Anglo-Saxons  of  the  South 
and  East,  it  lay  open,  on  the  other,  to  the  Cumbrians 
of  Strathclyde ;  while  from  every  point  of  the 
compass  the  menacing  Scandinavian  pressed  on. 
From  Kenneth  MacAlpin  to  David  I.,  Scottish  history 
is  a  long  war  of  races  bent  on  mutual  destruction. 
Finally,  the  Scoto-Celt  proved  his  imperial  spirit  by 
giving  a  Kingdom  to  Scotland,  despite  the  adverse 
influences  that  beset  him  on  every  hand.  Kenneth 
III.  acquired  the  ancient  Kingdom  of  Strathclyde, 
and  his  son,  Malcolm  II.,  subjected  to  his  sway  the 
Saxon  provinces  of  the  South-East,  which  com- 
prehended Lothian,  Berwickshire,  and  the  lower 
part  of  Teviotdale.  Thus,  after  many  birth-throes, 
the  ancient  realm  of  Scotia  came  into  being. 

No  sooner,  however,  was  the  new  kingdom  estab- 
lished than  English  influence  began  to  be  felt,  and 
the  conquest,  which  force  of  arms  could  never  effect, 
was  not  unlikely  to  be  accomplished  by  more  silent, 
imperceptible,  yet  no  less  powerful,  influences. 
Malcolm  Canmore  had  been  early  attracted  by 
the  English  Court,  Avhere,  during  the  misfortunes  of 
his  youth,  he  had  found  a  friendly  refuge.  His 
admiration  for  England  and  its  people  was  evinced 
when,  from  his  warlike  incursions  to  Durham  and 
Northumberland,  he  carried  back  with  him  large 
numbero  of  young  men  and  women,  whom  he  settled 
in  various  parts  of  his  kingdom.     His  marriage  with 


the  Saxon  Princess  Margaret  was  fraught  with  many 
consequences  to  the  social  and  reHgious  Hfe  of  Scot- 
land. The  ancient  language  of  the  Court,  with  the 
manners  and  customs  of  his  fathers,  were  changed 
by  the  unpatriotic  King,  and  conformed  to  the 
English  model.  Still  further  to  Anglicise  his 
country,  he  offered  an  asylum  to  those  Saxon 
refugees  who  were  compelled  to  leave  their  native 
land  during  the  reign  of  the  persecuting  Norman 
Conqueror.  With  Malcolm,  the  Saxon  importation 
ceased,  and  Donald  Bane,  his  brother,  who,  according 
to  Celtic  law,  succeeded  him,  issued  a  sentence  of 
banishment  against  all  foreigners,  and  an  attempt 
was  made  to  stem  the  tide  of  Southern  influence, 
and  place  Celtic  culture  once  more  in  the  ascendant. 
This,  however,  was  only  temporarily  successful. 
Donald  Bane  was  driven  from  the  throne  after  a 
short  and  troubled  reign,  and  the  three  sons  of 
Malcolm  Canmore,  who  followed  him  in  succession, 
were  steady  supporters  of  the  new  order.  It  was  in 
the  reign  of  David  L,  who  occupied  the  throne  from 
1124  to  1153,  that  the  most  momentous  change  took 
place  in  the  civil  policy  and  social  life  of  Scotland. 
David,  who  had  been  educated  at  the  Court  of 
Henry  Beauclerc,  became  inspired  by  Norman  ideas, 
and,  before  his  accession  to  the  throne,  was  advanced 
to  the  dignity  of  a  Norman  baron.  In  the  feudal 
system,  which,  for  upwards  of  100  years,  had 
operated  in  England  and  transformed  its  institu- 
tions, he  found  an  instrument  ready  to  his  hand  for 
remodelling  the  customs  of  the  Scottish  people.  He 
introduced  a  powerful  Norman  baronetage,  by  means 
of  whom  he  planted,  on  an  extended  scale,  the 
principles  of  feudal  tenure,  and  a  ruling  idea  of  his 
reign  was  to  suppress  Celtic  aspirations  and  institu- 

22  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

tions,  as  inconsistent  with  the  new  social  system  and 
with  loyalty  to  the  crown.  Thus  did  the  new  feudal 
system  take  root  in  our  Scottish  soil,  and  under  its 
shadow  have  flourished  those  Anglo-Norman  institu- 
tions which  have  done  so  mucli  to  mould  the 
national  life. 

Having  thus  endeavoured  to  indicate  the  trend  of 
Scottish  history  down  to  the  twelfth  century,  the 
period  at  which  Clan  Donald  history  begins  to 
emerge  out  of  the  dim  twilight  of  uncertainty,  we 
hope  to  shew  how  this  representative  and  outstand- 
ing family  were  aftected  by  the  new  order  of  Scottish 
feudalism.  Tiiere  still  remains,  however,  to  be 
considered  and  disposed  of,  the  important  question 
of  the  descent  of  the  Clan  Donald  ;  a  question  which 
we  have  deemed  advisable  to  take  up  only  after  all 
other  preliminary  matters  pertainiug  to  general 
Scottish  history,  and  pertinent  to  our  special  theme, 
had  been,  we  hope,  intelHgibly  discussed.  In  our 
introductory  chapter  we  drew  attention,  at  some 
length,  to  the  various  elements  that  combined  to 
constitute  the  Scottish  people.  To  which  of  the 
races  that  in  early  times  occupied  the  Highlands  and 
Islands  do  the  Clan  Donald  belong  ?  Taking,  for 
example,  the  real  founder  of  the  Family  of  the  Isles 
in  times  that  are  clearly  historical — Somerled  Rex 
hisularum — where  are  we  to  look  for  his  origin  and 
descent  ?  Was  he,  as  his  name  indicates,  of  Norse 
extraction  1  was  he  of  Pictish  blood,  and  thus 
descended  from  the  ancient  Celtic  stock  of  Caledonia? 
did  he  owe  his  birth  to  the  Scoto-Irish  race  of 
Dalriada  ?  or  was  he  of  the  mysterious  Gall-Gael  ? 
In  one  sense  it  is  impossible,  perhaps,  to  give  a 
categorical  answer  to  any  of  these  questions.  It  is 
unlikely  that  he  was  purely  the  oflspring  of  any  one 


race.  Judging  by  his  name,  we  should  pronounce 
him  a  Norseman,  were  it  not  for  other  circumstances 
that  point  to  a  different  conclusion.  He  may  have 
received  that  name  through  some  ancestress,  perhaps 
some  "  fair-haired "  ^  Norwegian  mother,  who  also 
bequeathed  to  him  the  enterprising  spirit  of  the 
Vikings.  That  he  was  of  Norse  descent  in  the  male 
line  is  an  hypothesis  for  which  there  is  not  a  shred 
of  evidence.  The  truth  is  borne  in  upon  us  from 
manifold  sources  that  the  spirit  and  tendency  of  the 
house  of  Somerled,  and  all  the  interests  of  his  race, 
were  in  direct  antagonism  to  the  Norwegian  occupa- 
tion of  the  West  of  Scotland.  Obviously  it  does  not 
stand  to  reason  that  a  Norseman  should  have  made 
it  the  main  object  of  his  life  to  overthrow  the 
supremacy  of  his  own  race,  and  erect  a  Gaelic 
Kingdom  in  room  of  the  Norwegian  power.  The 
title  Righ  Fionnghall,  by  which  many  of  the  Chiefs 
of  the  Clan  have  been  distinguished  by  the  High- 
land bards  and  seanachies,  is  no  proof  of  a  Norwegian 
descent.  It  would  appear  that  they  received  this 
distinction  because,  after  the  time  of  Somerled,  the 
Lords  of  the  Isles  ruled  over  a  large  extent  of 
territory  which  in  former  times  had  been  subject 
to  the  Kings  of  Man,  to  whom  the  designation  Righ 
Fionnghall  had  been  originally  applied. 

It  remains  now  to  shew  to  which  branch  of  the 
Celtic  tree  the  Clan  Donald  owe  their  descent. 
Though  the  question  as  to  whether  the  origin  of 
this  family  is  derived  from  the  Picts  or  Scots  is 
a  somewhat  subordinate  one  ;  seeing  that  both  these 
nations  were  hewn  out  of  the  same  rock,  offshoots  of 
the  Goedelic  branch  of  the  Celtic  tree  ;  still  it  is  one 

^  Hill's  Macdonalds  of  Antrim. 

24  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  much  importance,  and  has  been  earnestly  discussed 
by  the  best  modern  authorities.  In  deciding  upqn 
an  answer  to  it,  we  have  to  reckon,  on  the  one  hand, 
with  the  conclusions  of  Dr  Skene,  justly  regarded  as 
one  of  the  most  thorough  and  painstaking  of  recent 
Avriters  upon  the  history  and  ethnology  of  the  Gael ; 
and,  on  the  other  hand,  with  the  mass  of  Highland 
and  Irish  tradition,  the  accumulation  of  many 
centuries.  Gregory,  while  favouring  a  Celtic  origin, 
is  indefinite  in  his  conclusions,  leaving  the  problem 
of  Celtic  versus  Norse  virtually  an  open  question, 
and  consequently,  of  course,  not  condescending  upon 
the  more  special  issue  of  a  Pictish  versus  Scoto- 
Irish  descent.  In  his  "Highlanders  of  Scotland," 
published  in  1837,  the  work  by  which  Dr  Skene 
first  came  into  notice  as  a  prominent  historical 
writer,  he  strongly  supports  the  theory  of  the 
Pictish  descent  of  the  Clan  Donald.  He  maintains 
that  the  Gael  of  Argyll,  who  afterwards  became 
known  as  the  Gall-Gael,  were  of  the  Pictish  stock  ; 
that  the  ancestors  of  the  Clan  Donald  were  of 
the  Gall-Gael,  and  that  the  Orkneyinga  Saga, 
the  traditions  of  the  family,  and  otlier  sources  of 
historical  evidence  confirm  the  same  contention. 
This  writer  has  not,  however,  been  uniformly  con- 
sistent in  the  expression  of  his  views  in  this 
connection.  In  the  third  volume  of  his  "  Celtic 
Scotland,"  published  in  1880,  he,  no  doubt,  reminds 
us  in  a  footnote  that  he  has  had  no  occasion  to  alter 
the  opinion  he  held  in  1837,  but  he  forgets  that  in 
his  introduction  to  the  Book  of  the  Dean  of  Lismore 
he  had,  to  a  large  extent,  given  away  his  case  in 
the  statement  that  "  the  spirit  and  tendency  of  the 
whole  race  was  essentially  Irish." 


Dr  Skene,  in  his  advocacy  of  this  view,  lays 
great  stress  on  the  following  considerations.  First 
of  all  he  quotes  at  length  a  letter  written  in  1543 
by  a  Highland  clergyman  of  the  name  of  John 
Elder,  a  Keddshanks,  to  Henry  VIII.  of  England,  in 
which  he  emphasises  the  alleged  older  tradition  that 
the  Macdonalds  were,  in  common  with  the  other 
Highland  Clans,  of  the  "  ancient  stoke,"  and 
denounces  in  no  measured  terms  the  "  papistical 
curside  spiritualitie  of  Scotland,"  whom  he  held 
responsible  for  what  he  deemed  the  later  Dalriadic 
tradition.  Furthermore,  an  argument  in  support  of 
the  same  contention  is  based  on  a  paragraph  in  a 
letter  written  in  1596  by  James  Macdonald  of 
Dunnyveg  to  King  James  VI.,  which  is  as  follows  : — 
"  Most  mightie  and  potent  prince  recomend  us  unto 
your  hieness  with  our  service  for  ever,  your  grace 
shall  understand  that  our  forbears  hath  been  from 
time  to  time  your  servants  unto  your  own  Kingdom 
of  Scotland."^  From  these  and  other  considerations 
of  less  weight,  Dr  Skene  has  developed  an  ingenious 
argument  to  prove  that  the  Scoto-Irish  genealogy 
of  the  Clan  Donald  is  an  artificial  system  of  no 
earlier  origin  than  the  fourteenth  century,  concocted 
by  Irish  and  Highland  seanachies,  and  that  the 
Clan  Donald  were  the  principal  tribe  of  the  Gall- 
Gael  who  inhabited  the  coastlands  of  Argyll,  and 
were  of  the  primitive  stock  of  Scotland. 

It  may  at  once  be  admitted  that  some  at  least  of 
the  main  premisses  from  which  Dr  Skene  deduces 
these  conclusions  are  substantially  correct.  It  is 
in  the  highest  degree  probable  that  a  large  pro- 
portion of  the  Highland  Clans  of  the  mainland,  and 

^  The  expression  "  from  time  to  time"  meaning  here,  ag  in  other  ancient 
documents,  from  time  immemorial. 

26  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

even  some  of  those  that  are  territorially  connected 
with  the  Western  Isles  in  modern  times,  such  as  the 
Macleans  and  Mackenzies,  are  remnants  of  the 
ancient  system  of  Northern  Pictland.  On  the  other 
hand,  Dr  Skene,  in  the  course  of  his  argument, 
makes  an  assertion  which  it  is  impossible  to  accept. 
He  maintains  that  in  the  eleventh  century  the 
whole  Highlands,  including  Argyll,  were  inhabited 
by  the  Northern  Picts,  of  whom  the  Gall-Gael  were 
an  important  tribe.  Such  a  statement  as  this 
implies  either  the  extinction  of  the  Scoto-Celtic 
race  in  the  Kingdom  of  Dalriada  after  844  A.D.,  or 
a  wholesale  migration  of  that  stock  into  the  territory 
of  the  Southern  Picts.  There  does  not  appear  to  be 
historical  evidence  for  any  such  extraordinary  occur- 
rence. A  Dalriadic  population  occupied  Argyll  for 
500  years  previous  to  the  reign  of  Kenneth  Mac- 
Alpin,  and  when  the  union  of  the  Kingdoms  took 
place,  they  must  have  been  the  preponderating 
element  in  that  region.  That  the  race  should  have 
made  an  exodus  out  of  Dalriada  between  the  ninth 
and  eleventh  centuries  is  a  supposition  that  makes 
excessive  demands  upon  the  most  vivid  historical 

The  proofs  adduced  in  support  of  these  aver- 
ments, however  much  truth  they  may  contain, 
cannot  be  regarded  as  justifying  the  conclusions. 
The  statement  that  the  MacDonalds  were  indigenous 
in  Argyll,  as  shown  Ijy  the  Orkneyinga  Sagas,  and 
that  this  was  the  tradition  of  the  Clan,  as  the  letter 
of  James  MacDonald  of  Dunnyveg  illustrates,  seem 
rather  beside  the  question.  From  1596  backwards 
to  the  founding  of  the  Dalriadic  Kingdom  in  the 
fifth  and  sixth  centuries,  or  to  the  ninth  or  even  the 
eleventh  century,  was  a  period  of  time  sufficiently 

DESCENT    OF    THE    CLAN    DONALD.  27 

long  to  constitute  a  tradition  of  very  respectable 
antiquity.  Besides,  the  same  James  MacDonald  of 
Dunnyveg,  to  whose  letter  Dr  Skene  attaches  such 
importance,  wrote  another  letter  in  1615  to  the 
Bishop  of  the  Isles,  which  is  capable  of  the  very 
opposite  construction  from  the  theory  of  a  Pictisli 
descent.  "  My  race,"  Sir  James  writes,  "has  been  ten 
hundred  years  kindly  Scottish  men  under  the  Kings 
of  Scotland."  The  "kindliness"  may  have  been 
dissembled  on  certain  memorable  occasions,  such  as 
at  the  battle  of  Harlaw,  but  the  words  are 
sufficiently  suggestive,  as  indicative  of  the  true 
descent  of  the  Clan.  Touching  the  epistle  of  John 
Elder,  we  are  not  disposed  to  place  much  reliance 
upon  the  letter  of  a  bigoted  Highland  cleric  at  any 
time,  much  less  in  1543,  when  the  Beformation 
controversy  was  at  red  heat.  The  contents  of  the 
letter  itself  are  evidence  enough  that  we  are  not 
slandering  Mr  John  Elder.  The  warmth  of  his 
invective  and  the  keenness  of  his  odium  theologicum 
against  the  Church,  on  which  he  fastens  the  blame 
of  what  he  regards  as  a  false  historical  conception, 
do  not  encourage  us  to  rely  upon  his  testimony  as 
a  calm  and  unbiassed  authority. 

The  conclusions  arrived  at  in  our  Introductory 
chapter  as  to  the  Gall-Gael  are,  if  tenable,  quite 
subversive  of  the  theory  that  the  Clan  Donald 
belonged  to  them.  There  is  no  evidence  that  the 
Gall-Gael  were  a  territorial  people  or  anything  more 
or  less  than  Gaelic  pirates,  while,  as  we  hope  to 
show,  every  vestige  of  Clan  Donald  history  indicates 
their  connection  with  large  territorial,  even  regal, 

The  fact  that  Suibne,  the  son  of  Cineada  ri  Gall- 
Gael,  is  recorded  by  the  Irish  Annalists  to  have  died 

28  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

in  1034,  and  that  one  of  the  Clan  Donald  line  of  the 
same  name  occurs  in  the  genealogies  of  the  Clan, 
may  possibly  have  helped  to  lead  Dr  Skene  to  adopt 
what  we  consider  an  untenable  position.  Suibne, 
the  ancestor  of  Somerled,  was  the  son  of  Niallgusa  ; 
nor  does  the  name  Kenneth  occur  in  any  of  the 
genealogical  lists,  a  fact  that  seems  conclusive 
against  identifying  the  one  with  the  other. 

We  hope  now  to  be  able  to  show  from  evidence, 
tliat  seems  on  the  whole  convincing,  that  the  Clan 
Donald  are  descended  from  the  Dalriadic  stock  of 
Argyll.  Dean  Munro,  who  flourished  like  the  Red- 
shanks cleric  in  the  sixteenth  century,  and  was  a 
respected  Church  dignitary  of  his  day,  distinctly 
favours  this  conclusion,  while  the  MS.  of  1450  and 
the  genealogy  of  the  MacYurichs,  whose  history  as 
seanachies  to  this  family  goes  back  to  Muireadach 
Albannach  in  the  twelfth  century,  all  afford 
2)rima  facie  evidence  of  the  truth  of  our  contention. 
No  doubt  we  are  warned  against  both  Irish  and 
Highland  seanachies,  and  it  is  necessary  that 
their  statements  should  be  duly  weighed,  especially 
when  questions  arise  affecting  the  honour  and 
glory  of  the  family  or  branch  in  which  they  are 
most  specially  interested.  Yet  even  Dr  Skene 
admits  that,  from  the  battle  of  Ocha,  in  478  A.D., 
which  forms  an  epoch  in  Irish  history,  the  Irish 
Annals  may  be  taken  as  fairly  accurate,  though 
in  such  details  as  genealogical  links  they  may  not  be 
strictly  so.  The  same  is  true  of  the  Highland 
seanachies,  especially  the  Book  of  Clanranald. 
Though  not  perhaps  invariably  accurate  in  every 
date  and  detail,  yet,  on  the  whole,  we  believe  it  to 
be  the  most  honest  and  reliable  of  all  the  ancient 
authorities  on  the  origin  and  history  of  the  Clan. 


And  the  argument  from  these  standard  authorities 
is  strengthened  by  the  natural  inference  deducible 
from  the  annals  of  the  Clan  in  historical  times. 
From  the  very  beginning  of  the  Island  dynasty 
founded  by  Somerled  there  was  a  close  connection 
between  Ireland  and  Argyll  and  the  Isles.  The 
establishment  of  the  Gaelic  kingdom  was  largely 
promoted  by  Irish  aid  ;  matrimonial  alliances  with 
Irish  families  were  frequently  formed  by  the  chiefs ; 
many  members  of  the  family  acquired  settlements  in 
Antrim  and  Tyrone,  and  the  bards  and  seanachies  of 
the  Isles  went  for  their  education  to  the  literary 
schools  of  the  North  of  Ireland.  These  circum- 
stances seem  to  point  all  to  the  same  conclusion. 

It  is  necessary  for  us,  however,  to  go  beyond 
this,  and  to  consider  whether  the  strong  probabilities 
of  the  case  are  supported  by  what  we  can  gather 
from  the  history  of  ancient  Dalriada.  When  the 
union  of  Pictavia  and  Dalriada  took  place,  and  the 
seat  of  Government  in  the  latter  kingdom  was 
transferred  from  Dunadd  to  Scone,  the  shifting  of 
the  political  centre  of  gravity  from  the  coast  to  the 
interior  must  have  seriously  affected  the  population 
of  Oirthir-Ghael.  In  circumstances  in  which  society 
is  insufficiently  organised  for  defence  when  the 
governing  power  is  withdrawn  from  the  extremities, 
it  is  clear  that  the  latter  become  more  open  to 
foreign  invasion.  In  view  of  this,  it  is  significant 
that  it  was  in  the  latter  part  of  the  ninth  century 
that  the  Norwegian  invasion  began  to  be  felt  in  the 
West,  in  the  coastlands  of  the  Gael  and  the  Isles. 
From  the  latter  half  of  the  ninth  century  onwards 
there  was  a  perpetual  struggle  between  the  Norse- 
men and  the  native  population,  a  struggle  in  which 
the  people  of  the  Isles  soon  yielded  to  the  power  of 

30  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  Norseman  ;  but  the  Gaels  of  Argyll  continued 
bravely  to  resist  the  incursions  of  the  foe.  Not- 
withstanding this  resistance,  the  districts  both  of 
Ergadia  and  Galwallia  were  largely  occupied  in  the 
eleventh  century  by  the  Norsemen,  for  at  the  battle 
of  Cluantarf  in  1014  there  is  mention  of  the  Galls  or 
foreigners  of  Man,  Skye,  Lewis,  Kintyre,  and 
Oirthir glutei.  Further,  when  Thorfinn,  the  Earl  of 
Orkney,  conquered  the  nine  rikis  in  Scotland  in  1034, 
he  included  in  his  possessions  Dali  or  Ergadia  and 
Gaddeli  or  Galloway.  This  being,  in  brief,  the 
general  history  of  Argyll  or  Dalriada  up  to  the 
eleventh  century,  from  the  reign  of  Kenneth 
MacAlpin,  the  question  arises,  how  far  the  traditional 
genealogy  of  the  Clan  Donald  which  makes  them  of 
the  stock  of  Dalriada  is  to  be  brought  into  line  with 
the  well-known  historical  facts  to  which  we  have 
adverted  ?  In  order  to  do  this,  we  consider  it 
desirable,  for  the  sake  of  clearness,  to  trace  from  the 
earliest  times  the  ancestry  of  the  Clan  Donald  as  we 
find  it  in  Irish  and  Highland  genealogies. 

The  early  history  of  the  Clann  Cholla — the 
designation  of  our  Clan  from  Donald  back  to  Colla 
Uais — penetrates  far  into  the  mists  of  antiquity. 
Though,  in  detail,  all  that  glitters  is  not  gold,  yet  in 
the  main  the  seanachies  may,  without  too  much 
credulity,  be  taken  as  fairly  historical.  The 
genealogists,  however,  take  a  still  further  flight  into 
the  dim  past  when  they  connect  the  Clan  with  a 
celebrated  Irish  King,  Conn  Ceud-Chathach,  Con- 
strmtinus  Centimachus,  or  Constantine  of  the  Hundred 
Fights.  Conn,  who  was  A7-(l  Righ,  or  supreme 
king,  of  Ireland,  and  swayed  the  sceptre  at  Tara, 
flourished  in  the  second  century  of  our  era,  and  as 
his  name  indicates,  was  one  of  the  greatest  heroes  of 

DESCENT    OF    THE    CLAN    DONALD.  31 

antiquity.  The  tradition  as  to  this  descent  has 
undoubtedly  been  for  ages  the  living  belief  of  the 
Clan,  and  without  very  strong  evidence  to  the  con- 
trary, we  are  not  disposed  to  surrender  it.  At  the 
Battle  of  Harlaw,  MacYurich,  the  bard,  sought  to 
rouse  the  heroism  of  the  men  of  the  Isles,  by  stirring 
up  the  consciousness  of  this  kingly  descent — 

"  A  Chlanna  Chiiinn  cuimhnichibh 
Cruas  an  am  na  h-iorghuill." 

And  doubtless  the  same  inspiring  thought  animated 
the  warriors  of  the  Clan  Donald  on  many  another 
bloody  field.  Ewen  M'Lachlan,  the  celebrated  bard 
and  scholar,  in  his  poem  to  the  Society  of  true 
Highlanders,  gives  to  the  race  of  Somerled  the  same 
remote  and  royal  lineage  : — 

"  Before  the  pomp  advanced  in  kingly  grace 
I  see  the  stem  of  Conn's  victorious  race, 
Whose  sires  of  old  the  Western  sceptre  swayed, 
Which  all  the  Isles  and  Albion's  half  obeyed." 

The  tradition  of  its  descent  from  Conn  has  certainly 
impressed  the  imagination  of  the  race  and  inspired 
many  of  its  singers.  When  we  come  towards  the 
fourth  century  there  appears  upon  the  scene  another 
ancestor  of  our  Clan,  hardly  less  renowned  than  the 
famous  Conn,  Col] a  Uais,  who  is  also  styled  Ard 
High  of  Ireland.  Colla's  descent  from  Constantine 
is  a  matter  on  which  genealogists  are  not  agreed. 
The  genealogy  developed  in  the  MS,  of  1450 
supplies  three  or  four  links  which  are  omitted  by 
the  Clanranald  seanachie.  Which  of  the  two  more 
nearly  approaches  accuracy  it  is,  of  course,  impossible 
to  say.  The  fact  that  there  are  discrepancies  seems, 
however,  to  dispose  of  the  theory  that  the  Irish 
descent    of    the    Clan    was    an    artificial     system 

32  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

concocted  by  Irish  genealogists,  encouraged  by 
th  '  Scottish  ecclesiastics,  and  adopted  by  High- 
la::  1  seanachies.  Were  this  the  case,  we  should 
have  expected,  in  both  cases,  an  identical  and 
stereotyped  genealogy.  The  fact  that  these  gene- 
alogies, though  different  in  detail,  are  yet  similar  in 
their  main  conclusions,  is  a  clear  proof  that  the 
Scoto-Celtic  origin  of  the  Clan  was  not  artificially 
devised  to  fit  in  with  favourite  historical  beliefs, 
but  was  a  hona-jide  and  actual  tradition. 

Colla  Uais  was,  according  to  the  MS.  of  1450, 
eighth;  according  to  MacVurich,  fifth,  in  descent 
from  Constantino.  He  was  the  eldest  of  three 
brothers,  each  of  whom  bore  the  name  of  Colla — 
Colla  Uais,  Colla  Meann,  and  Colla  da  Chrich — 
their  baptismal  names  being  Caireall,  Aodh,  and 
Muredach.  The  name  Colla  seems  to  have  been 
given  them  according  to  an  ancient  poem,  for  being 
rebellious,  and  probably  means  a  strong  man— 

"  Caireall,  the  first  name  of  Colla  Uais  ; 
Aodh,  of  Colla  Meauii  of  great  vigour; 
Muredach,  of  Colla  da  Chrich  : 
They  were  imposed  on  them  for  rebelling." 

According  to  the  genealogists,  these  brothers  were 
the  sons  of  Eochaid  or  Ochaius  Dubhlin,  King  of 
Ireland,^  and  their  mother  was  a  Scottish  princess  of 
the  name  of  Aileach,  a  daughter  of  Ubdaire,  King  of 
Alba.  This  lady  is  celebrated  in  an  ancient  Irish 
poem  as  "a  mild,  true  woman,  modest,  blooming, 
till  the  love  of  the  Gael  disturbed  her,  and  she 
passed  with  him  from  the  midst  of  Kintyre  to  the 
land  of  Uladh."  We  can  gather  from  the  sean- 
achies that,  having  failed  in  the  attempt  to  place 
Colla   Uais   on    the    throne    of   Ireland,   the   three 

^  Book  of  Clanranakl  in  "  Celticsc  Reliquisc,"  vol.  ii.,  p.  150. 


brothers  crossed  the  Irish  Channel  for  help  from 
their  Scottish  kindred.  Probably  through  the 
influence  of  their  mother  s  relatives,  the  three  Collas 
were  able  to  muster  a  considerable  force  in  Scotland, 
at  the  head  of  which  they  re-crossed  the  Irish 
Channel,  and  with  the  help  of  their  Irish  allies 
placed  Colla  Uais  on  the  regal  seat  at  Tara. 
Colla  Uais,  however,  reigned  only  four  years,  when 
he  was  dispossessed  by  Muredach  Tirech,  his  near 
relative,  who,  it  appears,  had  a  better  claim 
to  the  throne.  According  to  Mac  Mliuirich,  the 
three  Collas  after  this  returned  to  Scotland, 
where  they  obtained  extensive  settlements ;  but 
having  afterwards  been  reconciled  to  Muredach 
Tirech,  they  were  invited  by  him  to  assist  him 
in  the  war  against  the  Clan  Ruairidh.  On  the  con- 
clusion of  the  war,  the  three  Collas  received  extensive 
possessions  in  the  North  of  Ireland  as  the  reward  of 
their  prowess  ;  but  Colla  Uais  left  his  share  to  the 
other  two  and  returned  to  Scotland.  After  a  resi- 
dence of  fifteen  years  in  Scotland  he  went  on  a  visit 
to  Ireland,  and  died  at  Tara  of  the  Kings,  a.d.  337. 

It  seems  apparent  that  although  Siol  Chuiim 
thus  early  established  a  settlement  in  Scotland, 
their  headquarters  continued  in  Ireland.  For  fully 
a  hundred  years  the  region,  which  was  afterwards 
the  Kingdom  of  Scottish  Dalriada,  was  only  a 
colony  of  the  Scoto-Irish  race  ;  as  has  already  been 
fully  narrated. 

It  was  four  generations  after  Colla  Uais  that  the 
forward  movement  of  the  Dalriadic  race  occurred 
which  eventuated  in  the  new  kingdom  in  the  region 
of  Oirthirghael.  It  is  at  this  point  that  the  Clan 
Donald  line  touches  that  of  the  Scottish  kings,  and 
that   their    common    origin    and    ancestry   appear. 


34  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Fergus,  the  son  of  Ere,  one  of  the  three  brothers 
who  came  to  Scotland  in  the  fifth  century  and 
founded  Scottish  Dahiada,  was,  according  to  the 
MS.  of  1450,  fourth,  and  according  to  the  Mac- 
Mhuirich  genealogy,  fifth,  in  descent  from  Colla 
Uais.  MacMhuirich  inserts  "  Maine"  between 
Fergus  and  Ere,  a  variation  which,  though  supported 
by  some  Irish  and  other  authorities,  does  not  seem 
to  possess  much  historical  probability.  The  gene- 
alogy of  the  1450  MS.  is,  in  this  respect,  supported 
by  the  Albanic  Duan. 

Fergus  Mor,  the  son  of  Ere,  had  two  sons, 
Domangart  and  Godfrey.  Domangart,  the  elder 
son,  succeeded  his  father,  and  was  the  progenitor 
of  Kenneth  MacAlpin  and  the  succeeding  line  of 
Scottish  kings.  Godfrey,  the  younger  son,  was 
the  progenitor  of  the  line  from  which  the  Clan 
Donald  sprang,  and  was  known  in  his  day  as 
Toshach  of  the  Isles.  It  would  be  absurd  to  say 
that  there  are  no  difficulties  presented  in  the 
genealogy  from  Godfrey  downwards.^  Links  seem 
wanting  to  fulfil  the  conditions  which  the  lapse  of 
so  many  generations  demands.  Something  like 
antediluvian  longevity  would  be  needed  in  several 
of  the  links  in  order  to  fill  up  the  centuries.  Yet 
while  this  is  so,  the  conclusions  suggested  by  the 
main  drift  of  the  genealogy  seem  clear  enough.  If 
links  are  lacking,  those  that  can  be  subjected  to 
historical  tests  are  not  found  wanting  in  historical 
probability.  Gilledomnan  and  Gillebride,  Somerled's 
immediate  ancestors,  can  easily  be  identified,  and  of 
the  rest,  Imergi,  called  by  MacMhuirich  Meargaidh, 
is  mentioned  in  the  Irish  Annals,  and  is  very  likely 
the  lehmare  of  the  Saxon  Ghronicle,  one  of  the 
three  kings  who  submitted  to  Canut,  the  Danish 

^  For  genealogies  dowu  to  Somerlcd  vide  Apiooudis. 


King   of  England,   when    he   invaded    Scotland   in 

To  sum  up  our  discussion  of  the  Clan  Donald 
descent,  the  main  conclusions  which  seem  deducible 
from  the  field  of  enquiry  are  these  : — We  are  satisfied 
that  the  population  of  Dalriada  continued  after  844 
to  be  largely  Scoto-Irish,  and  it  is  highly  probable, 
apart  from  any  historical  knowledge  we  may  possess, 
that  after  the  transference  of  the  royal  family  of 
Dalriada  to  Scone,  the  chief  power  in  the  west 
would  fall  to  some  family  more  or  less  akin  to  the 
line  of  Kenneth  MacAlpin.  This  is  entirely  in 
accordance  with  historical  analogy,  and  is  counten- 
anced by  the  authorities  so  often  quoted.  It  was 
undoubtedly  in  the  ninth  century  that  the  Clan 
C holla  rose  into  greater  consequence  in  Argyll  and 
the  Isles,  until  the  power  of  the  Norsemen 
threatened  the  Gael  with  extinction.  The  Norse 
invasion  of  the  West  of  Scotland  had,  as  we 
approach  the  beginning  of  the  twelfth  century, 
reduced  the  fortunes  of  the  Celtic  population  of 
Argyll  to  a  state  of  great  depression.  If  by  the 
latter  half  of  the  twelfth  century  the  Norwegian 
power  had  been  checked,  and  Gaelic  influence 
re-established  in  Argyll  and  the  Isles,  it  was  owing 
to  the  prowess  and  address  of  one  of  the  most 
celebrated  on  the  long  roll  of  Celtic  heroes, 
Somerled  MacGillebride. 


36  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 



Gilledomiian. — Gillebride  na  li-iiaimh. — His  attempt  to  recover 
the  Famil}"  Inheritance. — His  Faihire. — Rise  of  Somerled. — - 
Early  Life. — Gaelic  Risinp;. — The  MacTnneses. — Somei'led's 
Leadership  and  Strategy. — Regulus  of  Argyll. — Olave  the 
Red. — Marriage  "with  Ragnhildis. — Accession  of  Godred. — 
Rebellion  in  Man. — Battle  off  Isla. — Division  of  Isles.— 
Conquest  of  Man. — Malcolm  Macheth. — Somerled's  Treaty 
with  Malcolm  IV. — Somerled's  Invasion  of  Scotland. — His 
Death,  Character,  and  Position. 

In  the  11th  century  the  Irish  and  Highland 
Seanachies  throw  faint  rays  of  hght  upon  the  posi- 
tion and  prospects  of  the  Clan  Cholla.  During 
the  first  half  of  that  century  it  appears  that  Gille- 
domnan,  the  grandfather  of  Somerled,  was  a  person 
of  consequence,  and  held  sway  over  a  consideiuble 
portion  of  Argyll.  That  he  was  a  leader  of  some 
note  may  be  inferred  from  the  circumstance  of  his 
daughter  having  been  the  wife  of  Harold,  one  of 
the  Kings  of  Norway.  In  his  time  the  fortunes  of 
the  family  were  probably  at  the  lowest  ebb.  Able 
hitherto  to  hold  their  own  against  Scandinavian 
assaults,  the  latter  seemed  destined  to  obtain  a 
permanent  supremacy,  and  Gilledomiian  was  finally 
driven  from  his  territories  and  took  refuge  in  Ire- 
land, where,  after  devoting  the  latter  part  of  his 
life  to  pious  duties,  he  very  probably  lived  till  his 


Gillebride,  the  son  of  Gilledomnan,  who  had  fled 
with  his  father  to  Ireland,  now  made  a  vigorous 
effort  to  recover  the  inheritance  of  his  sires.  Beino- 
among  his  Irish  kindred  of  the  Clan  Cholla,  in  the 
County  of  Fermanagh/  it  was  determined  to  place 
a  force  of  400  or  500  men  at  his  disposal  to  aid  him 
in  vindicating  his  rights.  Accompanied  by  this 
warrior  band,  Gillebride  landed  in  Argyll,  and.  made 
a  gallant  attempt  to  dislodge  the  invader  ;  yet  the 
Norseman  had  by  this  time  obtained  such  a  firm 
hold  of  the  country,  that  Gillebtide  and  his  followers 
were  obliged  ultimately  to  retire  into  the  woods  and 
caves  of  Morvern.  From  his  compulsory  seclusion 
in  a  cave  on  the  shores  of  Loch  Linnhe,  this  Gaelic 
leader  came  to  be  known  as  GUlehride  na  h-uaimh. 
Gregory,  without  any  authority,  save  one  dark  hint 
from  the  historian  of  Sleat,  attributes  Gillebride's 
defeat  and  consequent  seclusion  to  his  alleged  action 
after  the  death  of  Malcolm  Canmore,  in  supporting 
the  claims  of  Donald  Bane  to  the  throne  against 
the  Anglo-Saxon  party.  This  statement  does  not 
possess  much  historical  'probability.  It  was  the 
aim  of  Gillebride's  life  to  regain  possession  of  his 
ancestral  domains  from  the  hands  of  the  usurping 
Norseman  ;  it  was  ao^ainst  them  that  all  his  efforts 
were  directed,  and  his  intervention  at  any  time  in 
the  internal  quarrels  of  the  Scottish  State  is  in  the 
highest  degree  unlikely. 

From  this  time  Gillebride  seems  to  have  made 
no  further  effort  to  regain  the  territory  of  his 
fathers  in  the  region  of  Oirthirghael.  It  is  therefore 
clear  that  a  crisis  has  arrived  in  the  history  of  the 
Western  Gael,  as  well  as  in  the  fortunes  of  the  Clan 

1  The  Book  of  Claurauald  in  "  Reliquiw  Celticsc,"  vol.  II.,  p.  155.  Alio 
see  Hugh  Macckuald's  MS, 

38  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Cholla.  The  Norseman  is  on  the  eve,  not  only  of 
expelHng  him  from  the  Isles,  but  of  crushing  his 
prestige  and  authority  on  the  mainland  as  well. 
It  was  at  this  critical  moment,  when  Teutonic 
ascendancy  in  the  AVest  seemed  on  the  eve  of 
asserting  itself  finally  and  triumphantly,  that 
Somerled  arose.  Gillebride  and  his  cave  vanish 
into  the  unknown,  and  his  warlike  son  steps  upon 
the  scene  of  history,  to  become  the  terror  of  the 
Norseman  and  the  Achilles  of  his  race. 

The  events  of  Somerled's  life  are,  like  his  gene- 
alogy, shrouded  in  the  mists  of  unverifiable 
tradition.  They  belong  to  that  borderland  of 
history  and  legend  on  which  the  chronicler  can 
with  difficulty  find  a  secure  resting-place  for  the 
sole  of  his  foot.  Yet  amid  the  shifting  debris  of 
old-world  history,  there  are  certain  main  outlines 
and  facts  which  have  crystallised  themselves  as 
genuine  and  authentic,  and  afford  indications  of  an 
impressive  and  commanding  personality  issuing  out 
of  the  dim  past,  possessing  immense  force  of  char- 
acter, high  military  talents,  great  energy  and 
ambition,  combined  with  a  large  measure  of  that 
political  sagacity  and  prudence  which  constitute  a 
ruler  and  leader  of  men. 

All  we  know  of  the  early  history  of  this 
renowned  Gaelic  hero  is  derived  exclusively  from 
tradition.  Hugh  Macdonald,  the  Sleat  historian, 
who  flourished  in  tlio  latter  half  of  the  seventeenth 
century,  embodied  that  tradition  hi  a  MS.  history, 
written  in  the  year  1680,  and  is  responsible  for 
almost  every  word  that  has  been  written  since  his 
time  ujjon  Somerled's  early  career.  Save  when  he 
is  tempted  to  exalt  his  own  branch  at  the  expense 
of  others,  he  is,  though  not  strictly  accurate,  still  a 


fairty  reliable  exponent  of  the  history  and  traditions 
of  his  Clan. 

When  Somerled  first  comes  upon  the  scene,  he  is 
living  with  his  father  in  his  cave  amid  the  Avilds  of 
Morvern,  an  unambitious  young  man,  devoted  to 
fishing  and  hunting,  and  as  yet  apparently  without 
any  intention  of  thrusting  himself  forward  as  a 
leader  of  men.  But  the  exigencies  of  the  time  soon 
transformed  this  Celtic  Nimrod  into  a  hero.  Amid 
his  devotion  to  the  chase,  he  must  have  had  many 
hours  of  reflection  upon  the  fallen  fortunes  of  his 
family,  and  unsuspected  depths  in  his  nature  were 
stirred  up  by  the  tale  of  their  misfortunes.  The 
faded  glory  of  the  once  kingly  house,  with  all 
the  humiliating  conditions  that  accompanied  its 
downfall,  seized  with  irresistible  force  upon  his 
imagination,  and  the  resolve  to  build  up  again  its 
ruined  state  became  the  passion  of  his  life.  Often 
must  he  have  wished  that  the  day  might  come  when 
he  could  strike  a  blow  for  freedom  and  the  right. 
That  day  at  length  came,  and  it  found  Somerled 
ready.  It  seems  that  about  this  time  a  strenuous 
effort  had  been  made  by  the  native  tribes  of  Argyll 
to  free  themselves  from  the  Scandinavian  yoke. 
Their  enemies  had  also  prepared  themselves  to  strike 
a  decisive  blow  for  the  final  assertion  of  supremacy. 
The  galleys  of  the  Norsemen  studded  the  western 
sea,  and  a  descent  in  force  upon  the  shores  of  Oirthir- 
ghael  ensued.  The  result  was  a  terrible  onslaught 
upon  the  native  tribes  that  endeavoured  to  with- 
stand the  invading  host,  and  their  eventual  defeat 
ensued.  It  was  observed,  however,  that  one  tribe — 
the  Maclnneses — left  the  field  in  good  order,  led  by 
a  young  man  tall  in  stature  and  valiant  in  fight, 
who  had  performed  prodigies  of  valour  that  day. 

40  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

The  Maclnneses^  had  lost  their  own  leader,  but  had 
found  one  in  Somhairle  Mor  Mac  Ghillchhride. 
Some  time  thereafter  this  brave  sept,  loving  liberty- 
more  than  life,  resolved  once  more  to  make  an  effort 
for  the  achievement  of  their  independence.  They 
assembled  to  take  counsel  as  to  the  course  they 
should  pursue  in  so  critical  an  emergency.  The 
Crann  tara  was  sent  through  the  land,  and  soon 
from  far  and  near  the  men  of  Argyll,  defeated  but 
not  subdued,  flocked  to  the  place  of  rendezvous  to 
the  east  side  of  Benmore.  A  council  of  war  was 
held,  but  the  unanimity  so  desirable  in  the  face  of  a 
united  foe,  did  not  prevail.  The  leaders  of  the 
various  tribes  respectively  strove  with  one  another 
for  the  chief  command.  The  caiiip  was  in  motion 
like  an  anthill.  All  began  to  draw  their  weapons, 
when  an  aged  chief  rose  in  the  midst  and  demanded 
to  be  heard,  setting  forth  at  great  length  the 
dangers  to  which  their  dissensions  exposed  them, 
and  suggesting  the  appointment  to  the  chief  com- 
mand of  one  in  whom  all  had  implicit  confidence. 
He  concluded  by  recommending  the  choice  of 
Somerled  as  one  who,  from  his  prowess  in  the 
recent  conflict,  was  well  fitted  for  such  a  post.  To 
this  they  all  agreed,  and  messengers  were  at  once 
dispatched  to  offer  him  the  command.  Somerled 
had  some  hesitation  in  accepting  the  offer  on  view- 
ing the  strength  of  the  opposing  force,  but  he  had 
recourse  to  a  stratagem  which  served  his  purpose 
well.  Each  man  was  ordered  to  kill  his  cow,  and 
this  having  been  done,  and  the  animals  skinned,  the 
Gaels  waited  the  approach  of  the  enemy.  Somerled 
now  ordered  his  little  army  to  march  round  the 
eminence    on    which    they    lay    encamped,    which 

•  '  lor  ^liiclmiescs,  see  Apiciulix. 


having  done,  he  made  them  all  put  on  the  cow 
hides  to  disguise  themselves  and  repeat  the  move- 
ment. He  finally  ordered  his  men  to  reverse  the 
cowhides,  and  now,  for  the  third  time,  to  go  through 
the  same  movement,  thus  exhibiting  to  the  eiiemy 
the  appearance  of  a  strong  force  composed  of  three 
divisions.  The  stratagem  had  the  desired  effect, 
The  enemy,  believing  that  a  formidable  force  was 
coming  down  upon  them,  fell  into  utter  confusion. 
Somerled,  taking  advantage  of  the  panic,  fell  uj^on 
the  Scandinavian  host  with  great  slaughter.  The 
toe  was  routed,  scattered,  and  pursued  to  the  north 
bank  of  the  Sheill,  where  they  took  to  their  galleys.^ 
Thus  did  Somerled  strike  his  first  successful  blow 
for  the  country  of  his  fathers,  and  started  on  his 
career  of  warlike  triumph.  He  was  not  satisfied 
with  the  success  of  this  preliminary  skirmish.  With 
the  instinct  of  the  capable  man  of  action,  he  took 
advantage  of  that  turn  in  the  tide  of  human  affairs 
which  carries  those  who  watch  and  follow  it  on  to 
power  and  fortune.  Somerled  followed  up  his  advan- 
tage, prosecuted  the  war  still  further  into  the  heart 
of  the  enemy's  country,  and  his  forces  gathering 
strength  and  confidence  with  continued  success,  he 
was  soon  able  to  drive  the  Norsemen  from  Oirthir- 
ghael  to  Innse-Gall.  His  victories  were  the  first 
successful  rally  which,  for  hundreds  of  years,  had 
been  made  by  the  Celts  of  the  West  of  Scotland 
against  the  Norwegian  power. 

Somerled  having  thus  gained  possession  of  the 
mainland  domain  which  belonged  to  his  sires, 
assumed  the  title  of  Thane  or  llegulus  of  Argyll. 
A  man  who  had  risen  thus  suddenly  to  eminence 
and  power  was  likely  enough,  in  view  of  the  past,  to 

^  Hugh  Macdonald's  MS.     New  Statistical  Account  of  Morveru. 


take  advantage  of  his  new  position  to  break  still 
further  the  sway  of  the  enemies  of  his  race,  not  only 
over  Oirthirghael  but  over  the  Western  Isles.  It 
became  his  settled  policy  to  subdue  the  Kingdom  of 
Man  and  the  Isles,  and  whether  or  not  the  erection 
of  a  Celtic  Kingdom  upon  its  ruins  was  his  intention 
from  the  beginning  of  his  career,  the  idea  must 
have  gradually  shaped  itself  in  his  mind,  and  the 
progress  of  events  enabled  him  to  carry  it  into 
effect.  In  these  circumstances,  Olave  the  Red, 
King  of  Man  and  the  Isles,  feeling  the  shocks  the 
Norwejjfian  Power  had  received  at  the  hands  of  the 
Celtic  chief,  and  somewhat  uneasy  in  the  possession 
of  the  Sudoreys,  effected  a  temporary  friendship  and 
a  cessation  of  hostilities  by  bestowing  his  daughter 
upon  him  in  marriage,  a  compact  which  probably 
he  would  not  have  cemented  so  successfully  had  not 
the  hero  of  Argyll,  from  all  accounts,  been  hopelessly 
in  love  with  the  fair  Ragnhildis.  The  story  of  how 
he  won  his  bride  is  told  with  i^reat  minuteness  of 
detail  by  the  historian  of  Sleat,  who  makes  it  appear 
as  if  the  overtures  for  her  hand  were  all  on  the  side 
of  Somerled.  It  was  a  stratagem,  but  all  is  fair  in 
love  as  in  war.  Olave  lay  encamped  in  Stoma  Bay, 
in  the  neighbourhood  of  which  Somerled  also  was 
cruising.  The  latter,  in  course  of  an  interview,  in 
which  he  sought  to  remain  incognito,  told  Olave 
that  he  had  come  from  the  Thane  of  Argyll,  who 
promised  to  accompany  him  on  his  expedition  if  he 
gave  him  his  daughter  in  marriage.  Olave,  recog- 
nising the  aspirant  to  his  daughter's  hand,  declined, 
it  is  said,  the  proffered  alHance,  but  expressing  his 
willingness  to  have  Somerled's  company  on  his 
cruise.  A  foster-brother  of  Olave,  Maurice  Mac- 
Neill,   was    a   friend   of    Somerled,   and  offered  to 


devise  means  for  winning  the  King's  daughter.  His 
offer  was  accepted.  In  the  night  time  Maurice 
scuttled  the  King's  ship.  Boring  several  holes  in 
the  bottom,  he  made  pins  of  the  necessary  size  to 
stop  them  when  necessity  demanded,  but  meanwhile 
filled  the  holes  with  butter.  Next  day  they  set 
sail,  and  for  a  time  all  went  well. 

As  soon,  however,  as  they  came  to  the  stormy 
point  of  Ardnamurchan,  the  action  of  the  waves 
displaced  the  greasy  packing  of  the  holes  in  Olave's 
ship,  which  immediately  began  to  leak,  with 
imminent  danger  of  sinking  and  drowning  the  King 
and  all  on  board.  Olave  and  his  men  thereupon 
called  on  Somerled,  who  with  his  galley  followed  in 
their  wake,  to  help  them  in  their  extremity.  No 
assistance  would  be  granted  unless  the  King  swore 
that  he  would  give  Somerled  his  daughter  in 
marriage.  The  oath  was  taken  ;  Olave  was  received 
into  Somerled's  galley,  and  Maurice  MacNeill  fixed 
the  pins  he  had  prepared  into  the  holes,  and  the 
King's  ship,  much  to  his  own  astonishment,  con- 
tinued on  its  way  in  safety.  From  that  day  it  is 
said  that  the  descendants  of  this  Maurice  are  called 
Maclntyres^ — the  sons  of  the  wright. 

This  is  Hugh  Macdonald's  story,  and  whatever 
foundation  there  may  be  for  it,  it  is  hardly  credible 
that  the  King  of  Man  should  have  displayed  such 
reluctance  in  allying  his  family  with  a  chief  of  such 
proved  capacity  and  extending  influence  as  Somerled. 
The  marriage  took  place  in  1140,  according  to  the 
author  of  the  Chronicles  of  Man,  who  refers  to  it  as 
the  cause  of  the  ultimate  ruin  of  the  Kingdom  of 
the  Isles. 

^  Maclntyre,  Gael,  Mac-an-t-Saoir. 

44  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

In  the  year  1153-54,  the  long  and  peaceful  reign 
of  Olave  had  a  sudden  and  tragic  close.  He  was 
murdered  by  his  nephews,  the  sons  of  Harold,  who 
had  been  brought  up  in  Dublin,  and  laid  claim  to 
half  the  King-dom  of  Man.  The  foUowins^  autumn 
Godred,  the  son  of  Olave,  who  was  in  Norway  at 
the  time  of  his  father's  assassination,  set  sail  for  the 
Isles,  was  received  gladly  by  the  inhabitants  as 
their  King,  and  executed  the  murderers.  Early  in 
his  reign  he  was  called  to  Ireland  by  the  Ostmen 
of  the  Kingdom  of  Dublin,  which  was  at  the  time  a 
Norwegian  principality,  to  quell  disturbances  that 
had  arisen,  and  assume  sovereign  power.  Victory 
rested  on  his  arms,  and  he  returned  to  Man  flushed 
with  success,  and  intoxicated  with  increased 
dominion.  But  prosperity  turned  his  head,  and  his 
arbitrary  and  tyrannical  exercise  of  power  alienated 
the  loyalty  of  the  Island  chiefs.  So  oppressive  and 
despotic  was  his  rule  that  many  of  the  principal 
men  of  the  Isles  banded  themselves  together  to 
resist  him. 

Thus  were  events  shaping  themselves  in  a  way 
which  powerfully  affected  the  interests  and  inflamed 
the  ambition  of  Somerled.  The  Isle  of  Man  was 
inhabited  by  a  population  Avhich  was  mainly  Celtic. 
The  ruling  dynasty  Jiad,  in  the  person  of  Godred, 
incurred  extreme  unpopularity,  and  these  circum- 
stances seemed  more  or  less  favourable  to  any 
pretensions  which  Somerled  might  advance,  con- 
nected as  he  was  by  marriage  with  the  family  which 
hitherto  held  sway  in  the  Isles.  Thorfin,  the  son  of 
Ottar,  the  most  powerful  of  the  disaffected  barons, 
was  chosen  as  leader  of  the  contemplated  rising,  and 
he  made  the  proposal  to  Somerled  that  his  son 
Dugall   should   be   proclaimed   King   of  the   Isles. 


Somerled  readily  assented  to  the  proposals  of 
the  Islesmen.  Dugall,  who  was  only  a  boy  at  the 
thne,  was  carried  through  the  Isles  and  proclaimed 
King,  while  hostages  were  taken  for  the  loyalty  of 
the  Islesmen  and  their  acquiescence  in  the  new 

This  revolution  had  no  sooner  been  accomplished 
than  a  treacherous  sychophant  of  the  name  of 
PauP — probably  as  little  in  nature  as  in  name, 
and  to  whom,  doubtless,  the  smile  of  the  tyrant 
was  as  the  breath  of  life — fled  to  the  Isle  of 
Man  and  informed  Godred  of  the  startling  events 
that  were  happening  in  the  Scottish  Isles.  Godred, 
without  delay,  equipped  a  considerable  fleet,  with 
which  he  sailed  to  the  Isles  w^ith  the  object  of 
crushing  the  rebellion.  Somerled,  having  been 
apprised  of  the  approach  of  this  large  armament, 
collected  a  fleet  of  80  sail,  and  on  the  night  of 
Epiphany,  115G  A.D.,^  a  long,  obstinate,  and 
sanguinary  conflict  took  place  ofl"  the  north  coast  of 
Isla.  If  we  gauge  the  battle  by  its  results,  the 
advantage  lay  with  the  Thane  of  Argyll.  Peace 
was  concluded,  and  a  treaty  formed  between  Godred 
and  Somerled  by  which  the  whole  of  the  islands 
south  of  the  Point  of  Ardnamurchan,  along  with 
Kintyre,*  came  into  j^ossession  of  the  latter. 

The  peace  which  was  thus  established  proved 
of  short  duration.  The  history  of  the  time  tells 
us  little  or  nothing  as  to  the  causes  of  the 
second  rupture,  but  within  the  space  of  two  years 
after  this  treaty  with  Godred,  Somerled  invaded  the 

^  Chronicles  of  Man  Orknej'inga  Saga. 

-  Said  to  have  been  Paul  Balkansou,  Norwegian  Lord  of  Skye. 

^  Chronicles  of  Man. 

*  Since  the   time  of  Magnus  Barefoot,  Kin  tyre  was  reckoned  one  of  the 

46  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Isle  of  Man  with  fifty-three  galleys,  routed  Godred, 
and  laid  the  country  waste.  Godred's  power  was  so 
much  shattered  tltat  he  was  compelled  to  fly  to 
Norway  and  seek  aid  from  his  liege  lord  against 
his  victorious  brother-in-law.  But  for  a  period  of 
six  years,  during  the  Ufe-tirae  of  Somerled,  Godred 
never  returned  to  his  usurped  dominion,  and  the 
w^hole  kingdom  of  Man  and  the  Isles  lay  at  the 
victor's  feet.^ 

This  rapid  and  triumphant  revolution  in  favour 
of  Gaelic  influence  on  the  western  shores  of  Scot- 
land could  not  be  viewed  with  indifference  by  the 
State,  and  was  the  cause  of  much  envy  among  the 
neighbours  of  the  Thane  of  Argyll.  However 
unlikely  it  may  be  that  Somerled's  father  was 
involved  in  the  political  complications  subsequent 
to  the  death  of  Malcolm  Canmore,  it  is  absolutely 
certain  that  his  sympathies,  and  those  of  his  son, 
would  be  with  the  Gaelic  influence  that  placed 
Donald  Bane  on  the  throne,  as  against  the  Anglo- 
Norman  culture  which  was  moulding  Scottish 
institutions  during  the  reign  of  Queen  Margaret's 
sons.  Circumstances  arose  to  confirm  and  increase 
any  unfriendly  feeling  already  existing  between 
the  house  of  Somerled  and  the  Crown. 

The  Province  of  Moray,  inhabited  in  early  times 
by  the  Northern  Picts,  and  long  occupying  an 
independent  position  as  regards  the  region  of 
Southern  Pictland,  Avas,  in  the  reign  of  David  I., 
attached  to  the  Scottish  Crown,  and  Angus,  the 
last  of  the  Mormaors,  was  slain  in  battle  in  1130.^ 
Four  years  thereafter  the  rising  of  Malcolm  Mac- 
beth and  his  claim  to  the  Eai'ldom  of  Moray  took 
place.     This  insurrection,   with   the  whole  train  of 

^  Chronicles  of  Man.        -  Aunals  of  Ulster  and  Innisfalleu, 


relative  circumstances,  is  fraught  with  such  peculiar 
interest,  and  has  so  direct  a  bearing  upon  the  life  of 
Somerled,  that  it  demands  more  than  a  passing- 
reference.  Malcolm  Macheth  first  appears  in  history 
as  a  monk  of  the  Cistercian  monastery  of  Furness, 
founded  in  1124,  under  the  name  of  Wymund.  He 
is  said  to  have  possessed  qualities  of  a  high  order, 
calculated  to  secure  advancement  and  dignity  in  the 
Church.  His  prospects  of  preferment  appeared 
particularly  bright.  In  1134,  Olave,  King  of  Man, 
founded  and  endowed  a  religious  house  at  Russin,  in 
affiliation  with  the  monastery  of  Furness,  of  which 
Yvo  was  Abbot,  and  Wymund  was  placed  in  charge 
of  the  new  establisliment.  His  address  was  so 
winning,  and  his  person  so  commanding,  that  he 
soon  became  very  popular  among  the  Norsemen,  and 
they  requested  him  to  become  their  Bishop.  In 
this  their  desires  were  gratified.  No  sooner  was 
this  step  of  promotion  accomj)lished  than  a  new  and 
unexpected  development  in  the  career  of  Wymund 
arose.  He  declared  himself  to  be  the  son  of  Angfus, 
Earl  of  Moray,  who  had  been  slain  in  1130,  and 
that  he  himself  had  been  deprived  of  his  inheritance 
by  the  Scottish  King.  The  King  of  Man  and 
Somerled,  whose  sister^  Wymund  afterwards 
espoused,  recognised  the  validity  of  his  claim,  which, 
according  to  the  best  authorities,  appears  to  have 
been  well  founded.  He  gave  up  the  monastic  name 
of  Brother  Wymund,  and  assumed  his  proper  Gaelic 
name,  Malcolm  Macheth.  He  immediately  took 
steps    to    vindicate   his    claim    to    the    Earldom   of 

^  Lord  Hailes,  Vol.  I.,  says  : — "  Apud  Scotiam  Somerled  et  nepotes  sui 
filii  scilicet  Malcolmi."  It  could  not  have  been  a  daughter  of  Somerled  hy 
Ragnliildis,  whom  he  married  as  late  as  1140.  Possiblj',  though  not  probably, 
it  might  have  been  a  daughter  of  Somerled  by  a  former  marriage  who  was 
Malcolm's  wife,  ■    • 

48  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

Moray.  Having  assembled  a  small  fleet  in  the  Isle 
of  Man,  he  sailed  to  the  Western  Isles,  where  he 
receiv^ed  a  friendly  reception  from  Somerled,  and 
from  whence  he  invaded  the  mainland  of  Scotland. 
Shortly  after  this,  the  Norwegian  Earl  of  Orkney 
lent  him  his  powerful  support,  and  gave  a  strong 
proof  of  his  faith  in  the  rightfulness  of  his  pre- 
tensions by  marrying  his  sister.  His  connection 
with  two  such  powerful  chiefs  enabled  him  for 
several  years  to  prosecute  his  enterprise  with  a 
certain  measure  of  success.  He  maintained  an 
irregular  and  joredatory  warfare  with  David  I.,  at 
times  retiring  to  his  mountain  fastnesses,  at  others 
taking  refuge  in  his  ships  when  pressed  by  the 
royal  forces,  until  at  last  he  was  betrayed  and  taken 
prisoner  while  crossing  the  river  Cree  in  Galloway. 
David,  contrary  to  the  character  of  saintliness  he  is 
said  to  have  possessed,  ordered  his  eyes  to  be  put 
out,  and  imprisone  1  him  in  the  Castle  of  Roxburgh.^ 
After  Malcolm's  capture  and  imprisonment,  his 
sons  appear  to  have  sought  a  refuge  with  their 
uncle,  the  Thane  of  Argyll,  although  in  their  earlier 
struggles  to  recover  their  family  rights,  he  does  not 
seem  to  have  taken  a  very  prominent  or  active  part. 
His  own  conflicts  with  the  Norsemen  w^ould  have 
occupied  all  his  energies.  It  appears  that  some  time 
after  his  imprisonment  in  Roxburgh,  Malcolm 
received  the  royal  pardon,  and  taking  up  the  broken 
thread  of  his  monastic  life  he  aga,in  assumed  the 
cowl,  and  retired  to  the  monastery  of  Biland  in 
Yorkshire.  The  sons  of  Malcolm  Macbeth  were 
again  in  rebellion  in  1153  after  the  accession  of 
Malcolm  IV.,  and  there  is  no  doubt  that  on  this 
occasion   they  enjoyed   the  powerful  and  strenuous 

1  Celtic  Scotland,  vol.  L,  })p.  460-64  ;  Highlanders  of  Scotland,  vol.  II.,  p.  166. 


support  of  their  uncle.  Somerled  took  up  arms, 
however,  not  merely  in  support  of  the  Moray  family, 
but  as  a  protest  against  intrigues  among  the  King's 
advisers  which  threatened  the  subversion  of  his  own 
influence  and  position.  The  war  lasted  three  years, 
and  in  course  of  it  Donald,  the  eldest  son  of  Malcolm 
Macbeth,  was  taken  prisoner  at  Whithorn,  in  Gal- 
loway, and  sent  to  the  Castle  of  Roxburgh,  where 
bis  father  had  been  in  captivity.^  Such,  however, 
was  the  vigour  with  which  Somerled  prosecuted 
the  war,  that  Malcolm  lY.,  considering  prudence 
to  be  the  better  part  of  valour,  resolved  to  come 
to  terms.  A  treaty  was  drawn  up  in  which, 
among  other  stipulations,  it  was  agreed  that  Donald 
should  be  liberated,  and  Malcolm  Macbeth  invested 
with  the  Earldom  of  E-oss.^  That  Malcolm  was 
advanced  to  this  dignity,  although  he  failed  to 
secure  his  ancestral  position,  is  proved  by  letters  of 
protection  granted  about  this  time  by  the  King  to 
the  monks  of  Dunfermline,  and  addressed  ''Malcolmo 
Comite  de  Ros,"^  &c.  The  charter,  by  which  Som- 
erled effected  such  a  great  deliverance  for  the  family 
of  Macbeth,  was  so  important  as  to  mark  an  epoch 
in  the  history  of  such  documents.  Thus  we  have 
charters  by  King  Malcolm  to  Angus  de  Sandside 
and  to  Berowaldus  Flandrensis,  both  "  given  at 
Perth  in  the  year  of  our  Lord  immediately  following 
the  treaty  between  the  King  and  Somerled."* 

The  peace  that  was  established  between  the 
Crown  and  Somerled  in  1157  seems  to  have  lasted 
about  seven  years.     History  is  not  very  clear  as  to 

^  Haile's  Annals. 

^  Skene's  Historians  of  Scotland,  vol.  IV. ;  Wyntoun,  vol.  II. 
3  Celtic  Scotland,  vol.  I.,  pp.  470-71. 

■*  Carta  .  .  per  Malcolmum  regem  iv.  Dat.  apud  Pert  uatali  domino 
proximo  post  coucordiam  regis  et  Somerledi. 


50  THE    CLAiS^    DONALD. 

the  causes  which  led  to  an  outbreak  of  hostihties  In 
1164.  According  to  tlie  Chronicles  of  Man  and  the 
Scottish  historians  who  have  professed  to  record  the 
transactions  of  the  age,  he  had  formed  the  ambitious 
design  of  conquering  the  whole  of  Scotland.  We 
confess  to  attaching  very  little  value  to  the  opinions 
of  Scottish  historians  regarding  the  history  of  the 
Highlands.  Ignorance  of  the  language,  customs, 
and  traditions  of  the  people  has  so  tainted  their 
utterances ;  racial  hatred  has  likewise  so  blinded 
them  to  facts,  that  their  deliverances  on  the  difficult 
problems  of  Highland  history  are  in  the  main  quite 

That  Somerled  was  inspired  by  ambition  it 
would  be  useless  to  deny,  as  otherwise  he  could 
never  have  carved  out  so  illustrious  a  career,  or  laid 
the  foundation  of  a  great  historical  dynasty.  That 
an  inordinate  desire  possessed  him  to  enlarge  his 
already  extensive  territories  by  an  attack  upon  the 
Scottish  Knigdom,  is  in  the  nature  of  things  most 
unlikely,  and  inconsistent  with  the  clear  judgment 
which  seems  to  have  marked  his  policy  even  in  the 
most  stormy  passages  of  his  warlike  life.  Here,  as 
on  occasions  elsewhere,  the  historian  of  Sleat  seems 
to  strike  the  true  historical  note.  The  Scottish  King: 
was  anxious  to  extend  his  sway  over  the  whole  of 
Scotland,  and  showed  symptoms  of  a  desire  to  grasp 
the  mainland  territories  of  Argyll,  Kintyre,  and 
Lorn.^  Other  reasons  also  may  have  operated  in 
causing  Somerled  to  assume  the  aggressive  against 
the  King.  It  is  a  fair  inference  frc>m  the  history  of 
the  time  that  his  action  represented  a  movement  on 
the  part  of  the  Celtic  population  to  resist  the  pohcy 
of  the  Crown,  which  had  for  its  aim  to  crush  the 

1  Hugh  Macdoiiald's  MS. 


independent  princes  of  Scotland  in  detail.  Malcolm 
TV.  is  said  to  have  invaded  both  Galloway  and 
Moray  in  1160,  and  to  have  introduced  large 
changes  into  these  regions  by  the  removal  of  the 
native  population  and  the  introduction  of  the 
Southerner  to  occupy  their  places.  That  this  may 
have  been  true  to  a  limited  extent  need  not  be 
disputed ;  but  our  faith  in  the  statement  is  not 
strengthened  when  it  comes  to  us  on  the  authority 
of  John  of  Fordun.  Be  this  as  it  may,  there  is  no 
doubt  as  to  the  proceedings  taken  by  the  Crown 
against  the  Celtic  chiefs  in  1160,  and  it  is  in  the 
highest  degree  probable  that  Somerled,  by  his  action 
in  1164,  sought  to  make  a  diversion  in  their  favour 
by  invading  Scotland  in  force.  In  addition  to 
all  this,  there  was  the  risk  to  which  Somerled's 
own  interests  were  exposed.  He  had  suftered 
many  provocations  from  Malcolm  and  his  Min- 
isters, and  so  anticipating  danger  to  his  posses- 
sions and  position  from  their  threatening  attitude, 
he  resolved  to  take  time  by  the  forelock, 
and  strike  a  decisive  blow  in  self-defence.  As  a 
protest  against  the  unprincipled  greed  of  Malcolm 
the  Maiden  and  the  unscrupulous  and  grasping  spirit 
of  his  advisers,  Somerled  in  1164  gathered  a  great 
host,  15,000  strong,  from  Ireland,  Argyllshire,  and 
the  Isles,  and  with  a  fleet  of  one  hundred  and  sixty- 
four  galleys,  sailed  up  the  Clyde  to  Greenock,  where 
he  disembarked  his  force  in  the  bay  of  St  Lawrence. 
Thence  he  marched  to  Benfrew,  where  the  King's 
army  lay  encamped.  The  records  of  the  time  are  not 
very  trustworthy,  but  such  as  they  are  there  are 
two  important  inferences  to  be  drawn  from  them 
which  are  helpful  in  arriving  at  a  correct  conclusion 
as   to   the   events  that   supervened.      In  the  hrst 

52  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

place,  it  is  clear  from  the  statements  of  the 
chroniclers  that  the  King's  force  was  numerically 
unfit  to  cope  with  the  host  that  Somerled  had 
brought  to  the  field.  In  the  second  place,  the 
undoubted  result  of  the  action  was  that  Somerled 
was  slain  and  his  army  dispersed.  Had  a  battle 
been  fought  it  is  incredible  that  the  small  force 
apparently  opposed  to  him  would  have  sufiiced  to 
baffle  the  tried  valour  and  skilful  leadership  of 
the  Thane  of  Argyll.  Plence  the  ancient  chroniclers^ 
call  in  tlie  special  intervention  of  heaven  to  account 
for  the  otherwise  unaccountable  result.  On  the 
whole,  we  are  disposed  to  accept  the  traditional 
version  as  that  which  best  fits  in  with  all  the  known 
circumstances  of  the  case.  Feeling  reluctant  to  join 
issues  with  the  Highland  host,  and  anticipating 
defeat  in  the  open  field,  Malcolm's  advisers  fell  on 
the  cowardly  and  ignominious  plan  of  assassinating 
the  Island  leader.  To  this  end  they  bribed  a  mis- 
creant of  the  name  of  Maurice  Macneill,  a  camp 
follower,  and  he  being  a  near  relative  of  Somerled, 
the  latter  had  nothing  to  fear  from  his  presence 
in  the  camp.  This  individual,  coming  in  the  guise 
of  friendship,  was  admitted  into  Somerled's  tent, 
and  finding  him  off"  his  guard,  stabbed  him  to  the 
heart.^  The  hero  who  was  unconquered  in  the  field 
was  not  proof  against  the  assassin's  knife,  and  his 
large  army,  on  learning  the  fate  of  their  trusted 
leader,  melted  away  like  a  snow-wreath,  betook 
themselves  to  their  galleys,  and  sadly  dispersed. 

No  doubt  a  different  account  from  this  is  given 
by   the    Scottish    historians.       Those    who    do    not 

'■  Claouiclcs  of  MelrobC,  p.   l(ji)  ;    Wyiitoun,  lUii  ;    Fortlouii,  p.  2[>2,  in 
fcikuue's  HicitcjriaLis  of  Scotland.     See  Appendix, 
2  Hugh  Macdonakrs  MS. 


attribute  the  result  to  the  direct  intervention  of 
Providence  allege  that  Malcolm's  army  not  only 
defeated,  but  v^ell-nio-h  annihilated  that  of 
Somerled.  Possibly  the  retreating  host  may 
have  been  harassed  by  the  enemy,  who  hung 
upon  their  rear  and  cut  off  some  stragglers  in 
their  flight,  and  this  would  have  lent  colour  to 
the  exaggerated  tales  of  slaughter  contained  in 
the  records  of  the  age.  It  is  difficult  to  conceive 
how — if  Somerled's  army,  as  alleged,  was  totally 
defeated  at  Renfrew — the  territories  of  the  rebel 
were  neither  annexed  to  the  Crown  nor  awarded 
to  the  hungry  Norman  courtiers  who  were  yearning 
to  lay  their  hands  upon  them.  On  the  contrary, 
Somerled's  family  suffered  no  diminution  of  their 
power.  E/Cginald,  Dugall,  and  Angus  were  all  left 
in  undisturbed  possession  of  their  father's  extensive 
domains.  We  prefer  Hugh  Macdonald's  tradition 
to  the  exaggerated,  inconsistent,  and  imaginative 
declamations  of  the  chroniclers,  as  bearing  far  more 
of  the  appearance  of  sober,  historical  truth.  To  the 
same  authority  we  are  indebted  for  the  statement 
that  the  remains  of  the  Thane  of  Argyll  were  taken 
at  the  King's  expense  to  lona,  and  buried  there 
with  great  pomp  and  ceremony ;  but  the  tradition 
of  the  family  has  always  been  that  Saddel,  where 
Somerled  had  commenced  the  erection  of  a  monastery 
which  was  afterwards  completed  by  his  son  Peginald, 
was  the  last  resting-place  of  the  great  Celtic  hero. 

The  Sleat  historian  tells  us  that  Somerled  was 
"  a  well -tempered  man,  in  body  shapely,  of  a  fair 
piercing  eye,  of  middle  stature  and  of  quick  discern- 
ment." The  reference  to  his  stature  contained  in 
this  quotation  does  not  seem  to  harmonise  with 
the  description  stereotyped  in  Highland  tradition, 
according   to   which   he   is   styled  Somhcdrle   Mor 



MacGillebhride.  Yet  the  application  of  the  epithet 
Mot  may  have  arisen,  not  so  much  from  physical  size 
as  from  the  general  idea  of  greatness,  the  com- 
manding position  of  Somerled  in  the  history  of  his 
race,  and  the  description  of  Hugh  Macdonald  not 
improbably  embodies  a  genuine  and  authentic 


Somerled  was  probably  the  greatest  hero  that 
his  race  has  produced.  It  may  seem  strange  that 
no  Gaelic  bard  has  sung  of  his  exploits,  l)ut  in  his 
day  and  long  afterwards,  Gaelic  singers  were  more 
taken  up  with  the  mythical  heroes  of  the  Feinn 
than  with  the  genuine  warriors  of  their  native  land. 
Others  of  his  line  may  have  equalled  him  in  personal 
bravery  and  military  prowess  ;  but  Somerled  was 
more  than  a  warrior.     He  possessed  not  only  the 


courage    and   dash   which    are  associated  with   the 
Celtic  character ;  he  had  the  organising  brain,  the 
fertile  resource,  the  art  not  only  of  winning  battles, 
but    of  turning  them   to    account  ;  that    sovereign 
faculty  of  commanding  the  respect  and  allegiance  of 
men  which   marks  the  true  king,  the  able  man  of 
Thomas  Carlyle's  ideal.     Without  the  possession  of 
this  imperial  capacity  he  could  never,  in  the  face  of 
such  tremendous  odds,  have  wrested  the  sovereignty 
of  the  Gael  from  his  hereditary   foes,   and  handed 
it   to   the    Clan    Cholla,    to    be    their    heritap"e    for 
hundreds    of  years.      He    was   the    instrument    by 
which  the  position,  the  power,  the  language  of  the 
Gael    were    saved    from    being     overwhelmed     by 
Teutonic  influence,  and  Celtic  culture  and  tradition 
received  a  new  lease  of  life.     He  founded  a  family 
which   played   no  ignoble  part   in  Scottish  history. 
If  our  faith  in  the  principle  of  heredity  is  sometimes 
shaken  by  degenerate  sons  of  noble  sires,  when  the 
last  links  of  a  line  of  long  ago  prove  unworthy  heirs 
of  a  great  past,  our  faith  is  confirmed  in  it  by  the 
line  of  princes  that  sat  upon  the  Island  throne,  and 
who  as  a  race  were  stamped  with  the  heroic  qualities 
which  characterised  the  son  of  Gillebride.     Somer- 
led's  life  struggle  had  been  with  the  power  of  the 
Norseman,  whose  sun  in  the  Isles  he  saw  on  the  eve 
of  setting.     But  he  met  his  tragic  fate  in  conflict 
with    another  and   more   formidable  set  of  forces. 
This  was  the  contest  which  Somerled  bequeathed  as 
a  legacy  to  his  successors.     It  was  theirs  to  be  the 
leading  spirits  in  the  resistance  of  the  Gaelic  race, 
language,  and  social  life  to  the  new  and  advancing 
order  which  was  already  moulding  into  an  organic 
unity    the    various    nationalities    of   Scotland — the 
ever-increasing,    ever-extending    power    of    feudal 

56  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 



The  Sons  of  Somerled. — Division  of  Patrimony. — Strife  between 
Reginald  and  Angus. — Death  of  Angus. — Reginald  Succeeds 
to  his  Estates. — Character  of  Reginald. — Question  of 
Seniority. — Descendants  of  Dugall  Mac  Somerled. — The  Sons 
of  Reginald. — Descent  of  King  Alexander  upon  Argyll  in 
1221-2. — Descent  in  1249.— Position  of  Ewin  of  Lorn. — 
Donald  of  Isla. — Angaxs  Mor.— Scottish  Aggression  in  Isles. — 
Roderick  of  Bute. — Haco's  Expedition. — Battle  of  Largs. — 
Cession  of  Isles. — Position  of  the  Island  Lords. 

King  Malcolm  IY.  of  Scotland  died  in  1165,  the 
year  following  Soraerled's  death  at  Renfrew,  and 
was  succeeded  by  his  brother,  William  the  Lion. 
During  the  long  reign  of  William  (1166-1214)  no 
further  effort  seems  to  have  been  made  to  subjugate 
Argyll  and  the  Isles.  The  history  of  Somerled's 
descendants  during  the  century  subsequent  to  his 
death  is  involved  in  much  obscurity.  Though  the 
career  of  the  great  Thane  is  in  some  respects 
shrouded  in  uncertainty,  his  personality  and  enter- 
prise gave  such  a  fresh  impulse  to  Celtic  aspirations 
in  the  West  that  it  were  strange  did  we  not  possess 
certain  clear  historical  outlines.  When  the  curtain 
that  fell  upon  the  tragedy  of  his  life's  close  rises 
again,  we  are  still  enveloped  in  mist,  and  the 
shadows  cast  upon  the  background  of  the  historical 
stage  by  his  successors  are,  while  less  imposing,  not 
altogether  so  clearly  defined.  Somerled  left  a 
Celtic  kingdom,   partly  inherited,  but  all  won  by 


the  sword,  extending  from  the  Butt  of  Lewis  to 
the  most  southerly  point  of  Man ;  but  when  the 
strong  hand  of  the  heroic  ruler  vanished,  Godred, 
who  for  several  years  had  been  skulking  in  Norway, 
returned  and  resumed  possession  of  Man  and  the 
Northern  Isles.  These  latter  comprised  Lewis  and 
Harris,  Uist  and  Barra,  then  known  as  Innis  Fadda, 
Skye,  CoU,^  and  other  lesser  Isles. 

Besides  the  three  sons  of  Somerled  by  Bagnhildis, 
it  is  said  that  he  had  other  sons.  One  of  these,  Gille- 
Galium,  is  supposed  to  have  been  slain  at  Eenfrew.^ 
Another  son,  by  a  Lowland  woman,  was  named 
GalP  MacSgillin,  said  to  have  been  the  progenitor  of 
the  Clan  Gall  of  the  Glens ;  while  the  names  of  other 
two.  Gillies'  and  Olave,^  have  also  been  handed  down. 
According  to  the  Sleat  historian,  Somerled's  oldest 
son  bore  his  own  name,  and  succeeded  him  as  Thane 
of  Argyll.  In  this  statement  he  does  not  appear  to 
have  the  support  of  any  other  authority,  yet  it 
seems  to  lend  a  certain  confirmation  to  references  in 
the  Norwegian  Sagas  to  a  second  Somerled  who 
flourished  during  the  early  years  of  the  ISth 
century.  '^  This  Somerled  is  spoken  of  as  a 
Sudoreyan  King,  a  cousin  of  the  sons  of  Dugall 
MacSomerled,  and  was  in  all  probability  a  grandson 
of  the  great  Thane ;  but  which  of  Somerled's  sons 
was  his  father  it  is,  of  course,  impossible  to  say.  It 
seems  probable,  on  the  whole,  that  descendants  of 

^  Gregory  is  mistaken  in  including  Coll  among  the  possessions  of  Dugall 
MacSomerled.  Coll  was  a  seat  of  the  Norwegian  Reginald,  and  in  the  poem 
Baile  Suthain  Sith  Eamhne,  in  the  book  of  Fermoy,  he  is  referred  to  as  King 
of  Coll. 

^  Chronicles  of  Man, 

^  Book  of  Clauranald  in  "  Reliquifo  Celticce,"  vol.  II.,  p.  157. 

*  According  to  Hugh  JMacdonald,  Gillies  had  lands  in  Kintyre. 

5  Hugh  Macdonald's  IMS. 

•^  Anecdotes  of  Olave  the  Black. 

58,  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Somerled  MacGillebride,  other  than  those  by  the 
daughter  of  the  King  of  Man,  inherited  lands  in  the 
district  of  Oirthirghael,  though  all  traces  of  their 
territorial  position  have  disappeared.  The  reason 
why  the  light  of  history  fails  us  utterly  regarding 
them  we  shall  consider  further  on. 

In  the  division  of  the  Southern  Isles  and  a 
portion  of  Oirthirghael  among  the  sons  of  Somerled 
and  Ragnhildis,  the  treaty  between  Somerled  and 
Godred,  in  1155/  was  carried  out  in  this  wise: — 
Kintyre  ^  and  Isla,  the  patrimony  of  the  Clan  Cholla 
and  the  early  seat  of  their  power  in  Scotland,  fell  to 
the  share  of  Reginald;  Lorn,  Mull,  and  Jura  became 
Dugall's ;  while  Bute,  with  a  part  of  Arran,^  and 
the  Rough  bounds,  extending  from  Ardnamurchan 
to  Glenelg,  were  bequeathed  to  Angus.  The 
remaining  portion  of  the  North  Oirthir,  extending 
from  Glenelg  to  Lochbroom,  passed  into  the  hands 
of  the  Lay  Abbot  of  Applecross. 

The  possessions  thus  apportioned  among  the 
three  sons  of  Somerled — won  by  the  might  of  their 
father's  sword — were,  undoubtedly,  held  by  them 
as  a  free  and  independent  principality.  Whether 
their  immediate  descendants  after  1222,  the  year 
of  King  Alexander's  descent  upon  Argyll,  owned 
the  superiority  of  Scotland  for  their  mainland 
possessions,  is  a  question  to  be  considered  by- 
and-bye.  That  the  sons  of  Somerled  entered  into 
possession  of  the  Southern  Isles,  which  had  been 
wrested  from  Godred,  owning  allegiance  neither  to 
Scotland  nor  Norway,  is  an  historical  fact  beyond  all 
dispute.     This  proud  sense  of  independence,  which 

^  See  p.  45. 

^  From  the  time  of  Miignus  Barefoot,  Kintyre  was  reckoneil  one  of  the 

^  T)ie  rest  of  Arran  belonged  to  Reginald, 


brooked  no  superior,  was  perpetuated  in  the  race 
even  after  the  reahty  had  passed  away,  and  led  to 
the  eventual  downfall  of  the  family  of  the  Isles — a 
family  characterised  by  Buchanan  as  '•  clarissima  et 
potentissima  priscorum  Scotorum  gens."  ^ 

The  division  of  the  Somerledian  possessions  does 
not  appear  to  have  given  unqualified  satisfaction. 
The  partition  of  Arran  especially  was  fraught  with 
unfortunate  results.  Where  lands  are  "  compassed 
by  the  inviolate  sea,"  boundaries  are  easily  preserved, 
but  the  line  dividing  Arran  into  two  equal  shares 
would  have  been  hard  to  observe  without  occasional 
friction  and  the  stern  arbitrament  of  war.  Keg'inald 
having  driven  Angus  and  his  sons  out  of  both  Bute 
and  Arran,  followed  them  into  Garmoran,  the 
northern  possession  of  Angus.  There,  in  the  year 
1192,^  a  battle  was  fought,  in  which  Angus  was 
victorious.  Eighteen  years  thereafter  (1210),  Angus 
and  his  three  sons  were  killed  by  the  men  of  Skye.^ 
It  does  not  follow  from  this  that  the  fatal  battle 
was  fought  in  Skye,  for  undoubtedly  that  island, 
as  well  as  Innis  Fadda,  were  both  at  that  time  in 
the  possession  of  Reginald,  the  Norwegian  King  of 
Man  and  the  Isles.  According  to  the  author  of  the 
"  Historical  Account  of  the  Family  of  MacDonald," 
published  in  1819,  Angus  and  his  sons  were  killed  at 
Moidart,  which  was  a  part  of  their  hereditary 
possessions,  probably  in  the  act  of  repelling  an 
incursion  of  Norsemen  from  the  Isle  of  Skye,  who 
still  continued  to  infest  the  North  Oirthir ;  and  this 
is,  no  doubt,  the  correct  version  of  the  end  of  this 
branch  of  the  house  of  Somerled. 

^  "  The  most  distinguished  and  powerful  family  of  the  ancient  Scots." 
2  Chronicles  of  Man.  ^  Gregory,  p.  ]  7,  Annals  of  Ulster. 

60  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Angus'  male  line  having  thus  become  extinct, 
his  possessions  passed  over  to  Reginald  and  his  son 
Roderick.  James  the  son  of  Angus,  however,  left 
a  daughter  Jane,  who  married  Alexander,  eldest 
son  of  Walter,  the  High  Stewart  of  Scotland.  This 
led,  in  future  years,  to  much  trouble  as  regards  the 
possession  of  the  island  of  Bute.  After  the  death  of 
Angus  and  his  sons  in  battle,  the  mainland  and 
island  possessions  of  the  sons  of  Somerled  were 
divided  pretty  equally  between  the  families  of 
Reginald  and  Dugall.  The  relations  between  these 
two  branches  of  the  Clan  Cholla  were  never  of  the 
most  cordial  description,  and  even  at  that  early  date 
a  misunderstanding  arose  as  to  the  ownership  of 
Mull,  which  lasted  over  100  years.  The  house  of 
Somerled,  however,  was  all  powerful  in  that  region ; 
the  voice  of  the  Campbell  was  not  yet  heard  in  the 
land,  and  the  families  of  Argyll  and  the  Isles  were 
vassals  of  the  Clan  Cholla. 

Reginald  of  Isla,  according  to  the  Irish  historians, 
seems  to  have  been  popular  both  in  Scotland  and 
in  Ireland,  feared  in  war  but  loved  in  peace.  The 
exigencies  of  the  time  often  led  him  to  the  field 
of  battle,  sometimes  on  the  defensive  sometimes  as 
the  aggressor ;  yet,  as  has  often  been  true  of  the 
greatest  heroes,  he  loved  peace  more  than  war,  and 
we  find  him  acting  the  part  of  peacemaker  not  only 
among  his  own  people,  but  also  on  the  other  side  of 
the  Irish  Channel. 

It  is  probably  at  this  stage  that  we  can  most 
conveniently  discuss  and,  so  far  as  possible,  dispose 
of  the  question  as  to  which  of  the  sons  of  Somerled 
was  the  older,  Reginald  or  Dugall.  The  seniority  of 
Dugall  would  not,  for  reasons  that  will  afterwards 
appear,    constitute    tlie    Clan     Dugall    the    senior 


branch  of  the  house  of  Somerled,  and  therefore  the 
question,  though  one  of  hiterest,  is  not  of  serious 
importance.  In  those  days  the  feudal  law  of 
primogeniture,  by  which  the  oldest  son  succeeds 
to  his  father's  lands,  was  not  operative  in  the  Isles ; 
lands  were  gavelled  ^  equally  among  the  male 
members  of  a  family,  and  in  more  than  one  case 
it  is  difficult  to  arrive  at  definite  conclusions 
when  questions  as  to  seniority  arise.  It  is  only 
inferentially  that  we  can  form  an  opinion  as  to 
the  point  at  issue.  The  Seanachies  give  us  no 
assistance.  M'Vurich  is  silent  on  the  subject, 
althouD^h,  in  mentionino-  the  sons  of  Somerled,  he 
names  Dugall  first. 

Hugh  Macdonald,  adopting  what  is  with  him  a 
favourite  role,  bastardises  Dugall,  evidently  with  the 
view  of  placing  beyond  doubt  or  cavil  the  seniority 
of  the  house  of  Isla.  Historians  have  followed  one 
another  slavishly  in  miaking  Dugall  the  oldest  of 
the  sons  of  Somerled.  One  reason  only  can  there 
be  for  the  adoption  of  such  a  view.  When  the 
barons  of  Man  and  the  Isles  rose  against  Godred 
in  1155,^  it  w^as  Dugall  who  was  carried  through 
the  Isles  and  proclaimed  King.  This  has  been 
taken  as  evidence  of  Dugall's  seniority.  It  may 
very  well  be  evidence  of  the  contrary.  Most  prob- 
ably it  was  because  he  was  the  younger  son  that  he 
was  put  forward  as  his  mother's  heir  for  the  posses- 
sion of  Man  and  the  Isles,  while  Reginald,  as  the 
older  son,  was  regarded  as  his  father's  successor  in 
the  hereditary  domains  of  Oirthirghael.  We  have 
already  stated  that  primogeniture   did  not  rule  in 

^  The    word    "gavel"   is   an   English   corruption  of    the    Gaelic  word 
"  gabhail,"  which  is  still  used  in  the  Western  Isles  in  the  sense  of  "  holding." 
^  See  pp.  44-5 


the  Isles  as  regards  the  inheritance  of  lands.  Yet 
the  head  of  the  race,  whether  brother  or  son  to  the 
last  chief,  enjoyed  certain  privileges.  Preferably  to 
others  he  possessed  those  lands  which  had  always 
been  connected  with  the  residence  of  the  head  of  the 
house.  Hence,  although  the  territories  of  Somerled 
were  divided  in  somewhat  equal  portions,  it  is  a 
significant  fact  that  the  occupancy  of  the  lands  of 
Kintyre  and  Isla  remained  with  the  descendants  of 
Reginald.  The  modern  Campbeltown,  which  was 
the  cradle  of  the  Scottish  monarchy,  became  in  after 
times  the  chief  seat  of  the  lords  of  the  Isles  in  the 
peninsula  of  Kintyre,  and  went  under  the  name  of 
Kinloch  Kilkerran.  It  would  thus  appear  that  these 
lands,  which  were  the  seat  of  the  Dalriadic  power 
and  the  peculiar  patrimony  of  the  Clan  Cholla, 
became  after  the  days  of  Kenneth  MacAlpin  asso- 
ciated with  that  branch  of  the  Scoto-Irish  race  which 
was  represented  by  Somerled  and  his  descendants. 
That  Reginald  and  his  posterity  held  this  immemorial 
heritage  of  the  Clan  Cholla  in  preference  to  the  line 
of  Dugall  seems  to  suggest  the  seniority  of  the  house 
of  Isla.  Still  further  there  is  a  prominence  given  in 
the  records  of  the  time  to  Reginald  and  his  descend- 
ants, which  clearly  points  to  their  being  the  chief 
inheritors  of  the  name  and  honours  of  the  house  of 

Even  if  it  were  the  case,  which  in  our  opinion 
it  is  not,  that  Dugall  MacSomerled  was  the  oldest  of 
the  three  sons,  that  fact  would  not  constitute  the 
Clan  Dugall,  necessarily,  the  senior  branch  of  the 
Clan  Cholla.  There  are  grave  reasons  for  doubting 
whether  the  Clan  Dugall,  as  represented  by  the 
head  of  that  line  for  upwards  of  four  hundred  years, 
are  at  all  descended  from  Dugall  MacSomerled.     A 


brief  glance  at  the  descendants  of  this  Dugall  may 
be  helpful  in  the  solution  of  the  question.  Dugall, 
son  of  Somerled,  left  three  sons,  Dugall  Scrag,  Dun- 
can, and  another  son  named  Uspac^  Hakon,  who 
appears  in  the  Norwegian  Sagas.  Uspac  stood  high 
in  the  confidence  of  King  Haco,  who  made  him  a  King 
in  the  Sudoreys.  It  is  recorded  by  the  same  authority 
that  in  1228-30,  when  the  Norwegian  forces  came 
south  to  Isla  Sound,  the  three  brothers.  Kings 
Uspac,  Dugall,  and  Duncan,  were  already  there  with 
a  large  armament,  and  it  is  interesting  to  find  refer- 
ence to  the  second  Somerled  as  taking  part  in  the 
expedition.  The  Sudoreyan  princes  invited  the 
Norwegians  to  a  banquet,  but  the  latter  having 
heard  of  the  strong  wine  drunk  at  the  Celtic 
symposia  (does  the  potent  national  beverage  possess 
this  venerable  antiquity  ?),  and  having  their  sus- 
picions otherwise  aroused,  declined  the  proffered 
hospitality.  A  night  attack  was  made  on  the 
Norsemen,  when  a  considerable  number  of  the 
Sudoreyans,  Somerled  among  the  rest,  were  killed. 
Dugall  Scrag  was  taken  prisoner  and  protected  by 
Uspac,  who  does  not  appear  to  have  been  implicated 
in  the  fray.  With  this  incident  Dugall  Scrag  passes 
out  of  history. 

Shortly  after  this,  Olave  King  of  Man,  invaded 
Bute,  then  in  the  possession  of  the  Scots,  with  a  fleet 
of  80  ships,  and  besieged  the  Castle  of  E-othesay. 
The  Norwegians  were  eventually  successful  with  a 
loss  of  390  men,  and  Uspac  Hakon,  who  was  among 
the  assailants,  was  mortally  wounded  by  a  stone 
hurled  from  the  battlements.  He  survived  only  till 
he  reached  Kintyre,  whence  his  body  was  borne  to 

^  Anecdotes  of  Olave  the  Black.  ^  Anecdotes  of  Clave  the  Black. 


After  this,  Duncan  the  son  of  Dugall  MacSomer- 
led  was  the  only  member  of  the  family  who  seems 
to  have  had  any  territorial  position  in  the  Isles  ; 
in  fact,  so  far  as  history  records,  he  was  the  sole 
representative  of  the  line  who  left  behind  him  a 
traceable  posterity.  As  Duncan  de  Lorn  he 
witnessed  a  charter  to  the  Earl  of  Athole,  and 
as  Duncan  de  Ergalita  he  signs  the  letter  and 
oath  to  the  Pope  of  the  nobles  of  Scotland, 
on  the  treaty  of  Ponteland,  in  1244.^  Duncan's 
son,  King  Ewin  or,  as  he  is  designated  in  the 
Sagas,  King  John,  was  the  son  of  this  Duncan, 
and  the  representative  of  the  family  in  1263. 
Historians  have  assumed  that  King  John  or  Ewin 
was  the  father  of  Alexander  de  Ergaclia  who,  with 
his  son  John,  was  the  determined  enemy  of  Bruce 
in  the  war  of  Scottish  independence.  Now  it  is 
almost  as  certain  as  any  historical  fact  connected 
with  so  remote  a  period  can  be,  that  Ewin  of  Lorn, 
the  son  of  Duncan,  left  no  male  issue.  It  seems 
clear  that  his  line  terminated  with  two  heiresses, 
one  of  whom  married  the  King  of  Norway  and  the 
other  Alexander  of  Isla,  son  of  Angus  Mor.  It  is 
on  record  that  Alexander  of  Isla,  through  his  wife 
Juliana,  possessed  lands  in  the  island  of  Lismore,*^ 
which  was  part  of  the  lordship  of  Lorn,  and  that 
Edward  I.  summoned  Edward  Baliol  before  him  for 
preventing  them  from  enjoying  possession  of  these 
lands.  It  is  well  established  that,  according  to 
the  feudal  and  Celtic  laws  of  territorial  possession, 
females  could  not  inherit  lands  except  on  the  failure 
of  heirs  male.  Only  because  of  such  failure  do  we 
find,  first  Christina,  and  afterwards  Amie  Macruairi, 
in  the  line  of  Roderick,  the  son  of  Reginald,  inherit- 

^  Kecords  of  Bcauly  Piiory.         '^  Orig.  Par. 












1  ■  f 

^H^  ^^y>^fi  "i^pmiF            ^nji 

w^^J . 





■^^*«'-— =■  ■ 





ing  the  patrimony  of  the  family.  Hence  the 
succession  of  Juh'ana  of  Lorn  to  a  portion  at 
least  of  her  father's  lands,  forbids  ns  to  believe  that 
he  left  any  sons,  and  strongly  suggests  tlie  conclusion 
that  the  male  descendants  of  Dugall  MacSomerled 
terminated  with  Ewin.  Supposing,  however,  for  the 
sake  of  argument,  not  only  that  Dugall  MacSomerled 
was  the  oldest  son,  but  that  Alexander  de  Ergadia, 
who  flourished  in  the  time  of  Bruce,  was  his  direct 







-  ^4!hj 




BBKl   .^^^^^1 


descendant,  this  is  very  far  from  proving  that  the 
Clan  Dugall  are  the  senior  branch  of  the  Clan  Cholla. 
In  truth,  such  a  conclusion  is  impossible  in  view  of 
the  fact  that,  in  1388  the  line  of  Alexander  de 
Ergadia  terminated  in  an  heiress,  who  brought  over 
the  lordship  of  Lorn  to  her  husband,  Jolni  Stewart. 
It  is  thus  clear  to  a  demonstration  that  the  Clan 
Dugall,  of  whom  the  family  of  Dunolly  is  the  leading 
branch,  cannot,  on  any  supposition,  be  traced  back 


66  THE    CLAX    DONALD. 

in  the  male  line  to  Dugall,  the  son  of  Somerled. 
Although  we  are  not  writing  a  history  of  the  Clan 
Dugall,  it  is  desirable  that  their  real  origin  should, 
if  possible,  be  pointed  out,  if  for  no  other  purpose 
than  to  give  the  Clan  Donald  their  true  position  as 
the  main  branch  of  the  Clan  Cholla  in  the  Western 
Highlands.  An  opportunity  for  looking  at  the 
question  in  its  true  bearings  will  immediately  occur. 
Meantime  our  discussion  of  the  question  of  seniority 
as  between  Keofinald  and  Duo^'all,  the  sons  of 
Somerled,  has  necessarily  led  us  to  anticipate,  and 
we  must  now  take  up  the  thread  of  our  history 
where  w'e  dropped  it.  Reginald,  the  son  of  Somer- 
led, died  in  1207.  This  is  the  date  given  by 
the  Book  of  Clanranald,^  and  is  probably  correct. 
The  seal  adhibited  to  his  charter  to  Paisley  Abbey 
is  thus  described  : — "  In  the  middle  of  the  seal  on 
one  side,  a  ship  filled  with  men-at-arms ;  on  the 
reverse  side,  the  figure  of  an  armed  man  on  horse- 
back with  a  sword  drawn  in  his  hand."'  By  Fonia, 
daughter  of  the  Earl  of  Moray,  Beginald  had  three 
sons — Donald,  Roderick,  and  Dugall.  Most  authori- 
ties mention  only  two  sons,  excluding  Dugall  ;  nor 
do  we  find  any  record  of  him  in  tlie  division  of  his 
father's  lands.  Yet  the  MS.  of  1450,'  the  most 
valuable  genealogical  authority  we  possess,  includes 
Dugall  among  the  sons  of  Reginald  ;  and  not  only 
so,  but  traces  the  descent  of  the  Clan  Dugall  to  him 
instead  of  to  the  son  of  Somerled. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  and  in  view  of  all  that  has 
been  said,  this  is  the  only  theory  of  the  descent  of 
the    Clan    Dugall   that    appears    on    the    evidence 

^  Reliquifc  CelticfC,  p.  157. 
"  Grig.  Scot.,  vol.  I.,  p.  2. 

•*  The  Book  of  Balimolc  agrees  with  the  1150  MS.  in  this  respect,  while 
the  Book  of  Leocan  derives  the  Clau  Dugall  frora  Dugall  MacSomerled. 


possible  to  adopt ;  and  the  value  of  the  testimony 
of  the  1450  MS.  on  this  question  is  immensely 
enhanced  when  we  remember,  that  it  was  in  the 
years  during  which  the  writer  of  that  MS.  flourished 
that  the  Dunolly  family,  the  undoubted  heads  of 
their  race,  were  invested  by  Stewart  of  Lorn  in  the 
possession  of  the  lands  from  which  they  derive  their 
designation,  and  ^\hich  they  have  held  down  to  the 
present  day.^ 

According  to  the  Irish  annalists,  the  sons  of 
Reginald  were  men  of  very  different  temper  and 
calibre  from  their  father.  They  were  found,  like 
him  sometimes,  among  their  Irish  kinsmen,  but 
never  as  messengers  of  peace.  The  following 
extract  illustrates  what  manner  of  men  they  were  : — 
"  Thomas  MacUchtry  and  the  sons  of  Reginald, 
son  of  Somerled,  came  to  Doire  Challuim  Chille 
with  70  ships,  and  the  town  was  greatly  injured 
by  them.  O'Domhnaill  and  they  completely 
destroyed  the  country.'" 

Donald  succeeded  his  father  in  the  lordship  of 
South  Kintyre,  Isla,  and  other  island  possessions ; 
while  Roderick  obtained  North  Kintyre,^  Bute,  and 
the  lands  of  Garmoran,  extending  from  Ardna- 
murchan  to  Glenelg-,  all  of  which  formed  the 
possessions  of  Angus  MacSomerled ;  Lochaber 
passing  to  the  Comyns. 

Oirthirghael  and  the  Isles  were  now  divided  into 
a  number  of  little  principalities,  entirely  in  the 
possession  of  the  house  of  Somerled  and  of  Reginald 
of  Man  as  feudatory  of  Norway.  The  vicinity  of 
such  enterprising  neighbours  could  hardly  fail  to  be 
irksome  to  the  Scottish  Kings,  and  the  thirteenth 
century  witnessed  a  number  of  efforts  on  their  part 

^  Orig.  Par.  Scot.  "  Annals  of  Uic  Four  Masters. 

5  Orig.  Par.  Scot.,  vol.  11.,  p.  2J. 

68  THE    CLAN    DOXALD. 

to  brin^'  these  regions  into  subjection.  Alexander  II. 
had  no  sooner  ascended  the  throne  in  1214,  than 
the  old  disturbers  of  the  realm,  the  Mac  Williams 
and  MacHeths,  rose  again  in  rebellion,  and.  were 
assisted  by  the  potentates  of  the  Isles.  In  1221, 
after  peace  had  been  restored  and  the  royal 
influence  consolidated,  Alexander,  fired  by  re- 
sentment against  the  house  of  Somerled,  made  a 
descent  upon  Argyll  with  the  view  of  carrying  out 
a  long  cherished  scheme  for  its  con(piest.  The 
elements  however  were  unpropitious  ;  his  fleet  was 
driven  back  by  a  storm,  and  as  winter  was  coming 
on  the  attempt  meanwhile  was  abandoned.  The 
following  year  the  King  fitted  out  a  fresh  expedition. 
According  to  John  of  Fordun  and  Wyntoun,  who 
alone  record  the  enterprise,  the  latter  in  doggerel 
lines, ^  Alexander,  in  the  course  of  his  campaign,  was 
successful  in  conquering  and  enforcing  the  allegiance 
of  the  Celtic  chiefs  of  Argyll.  Many  it  is  said 
submitted,  gave  hostages  and  large  sums  of  money 
as  an  earnest  of  future  allegiance  ;  while  others  less 
able  to  defend  themselves,  and  dreadinp-  the  roval 
vengeance,  abandoned  their  ]iossessions  and  fled — 
some  to  Galloway,  where  they  afterwards  proved  of 
service  to  their  kinsmen  in  that  region  ;  others  to 
the  protection  of  their  more  fortunate  kindred  in  the 
Isles.  What  the  alleged  conquest  of  Argyll  in  1222 
actually  amounted  to,  it  is  really  diflicult  to  say,  in 
the  absence  of  historical  testimony  more  reliable 
than  that  of  the  chroniclers  referred  to.  That  in 
some  instances  the  descent  of  the  Scots  upon 
Argyll  resulted  in  the  displacement  of  the  Gaelic 
chiefs,  is  in  the  nature  of  things  probable  enough. 
On  such  an  hypothesis  we  can  easily  account  for  the 

^  See  Appendix, 


disappearance  of  the  descendants  of  Somerled,  other 
than  those  by  Ragnhildis,  from  a  territorial  position 
in  Oirthirghael,  a  disappearance  which  would  other- 
wise be  somewhat  difficult  to  explain.  Whatever 
results  the  campaign  of  1222  may  have  had  in  other 
respects,  it  made  little  or  no  impression  upon  the 
power  or  position  of  the  Island  Princes.  As  evidence 
of  this  we  find  Alexander  II.,  after  wintering  in 
Aberdeen,^  coming  back  to  the  west  of  Scotland,  and 
using  every  means  diplomatic  and  otherwise  to 
secure  Argyll  and  the  Isles.  The  Clan  Cholla  were 
still  a  formidable  problem  in  that  region.  The  Kino- 
had  also  to  reckon  with  Norway,  and  he  now  sent 
ambassadors  to  the  Court  of  Haco,  empowering 
them  to  treat  for  the  purchase  of  the  Isles.  Their 
proposals  were  treated  with  scant  favour,  and  from 
that  time  down  to  1249,  matters  in  Argyll  and  the 
Isles  continued  very  much  in  the  same  position.  In 
that  year  Alexander,  taking  advantage  of  the  death 
of  the  Norwegian  King  of  Man  and  the  Isles,  col- 
lected a  large  force  and  proceeded  to  the  Hebrides, 
declaring  "  that  he  would  not  desist  until  he  had 
set  his  standard  east  on  the  cliffs  of  Thurso,  and  had 
reduced  under  himself  all  the  provinces  which  the 
Norwegian  monarch  possessed  to  the  westward  of 
the  German  Ocean.""' 

The  King  sailed  round  Kintyre  with  his  fleet 
expecting  to  find  Donald  of  Tsla  overawed  by  such 
a  formidable  and  powerful  armament;  but  it  does  not 
appear  that  the  island  lord  showed  any  symptoms  of 
submission.  The  King  now  made  overtures  to  Ewin 
of  Lorn,  whom  he  sought,  unsuccessfully,  to  win 
from  the  Norwegian  alliance.  Ewin  had  recently 
been    entrusted    by  Haco  with    the  administration 

^  W3'utoun's  Clronicle,  JBuuk  VII.,  c.  9.  -  Sagu  of  Hakoii  ]V. 

70  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  affairs  connected  with  the  Norwegian  possessions 
in  the  Isles.  He  held  the  castle  of  Kiarnaburo-h  on 
the  West  Coast  of  Mull  and  other  strongholds  in 
the  name  of  the  King  of  Norway;  and  having  set 
before  himself  the  aml:>itious  design  of  becoming 
master  both  of  Man  and  the  Isles,  he  was  not  likely 
to  take  part  in  Alexander's  canij^aign  for  a  reward 
which  must,  in  any  case,  have  fallen  short  of  what 
he  hoped  ultimately  to  secure.  Whether  Alexander 
in  these  circumstances  would  have  pursued  the 
campaign  further  or  to  a  successful  issue  it  is 
difficult  to  say,  for  death  arrested  all  his  plans  in 
the  small  island  of  Kerrera  in  the  52nd  year  of  his 
age.  His  army  broke  up  and  the  campaign  closed. 
Ewin  of  Lorn,  taking  advantage  of  the  lull  that 
followed  the  storm,  made  elaborate  preparations 
towards  the  accomplishment  of  his  scheme  of  taking- 
possession  of  Man  and  the  Isles.  He  invaded  Man 
and  declared  himself  King;  but  his  reign  was  short- 
lived. He  had  no  sooner  taken  possession  of  the 
throne  than  a  messaoj'e  was  sent  to  Haco  informing' 
him  of  the  position  of  affairs.  The  Norwegian  King- 
invoked  the  aid  of  Donald  of  Isla  and  his  brother 
lloderick,  and  this  having  been  promptly  and 
effectively  given,  Ewin,  who  was  obnoxious  to 
the  great  majority  of  the  Manxmen,  was  driven 
from  the  Island,  and  compelled  to  take  refuge  in  liis 
own  domains.^  Donald,  by  rendering  this  tiniely 
assistance,  seemed  the  friendship  of  the  King  of 
Norway,  and  the  alliance  which  was  thus  cemented 
between  the  family  of  Isla  and  the  Norwegian  Crown 
continued  without  interruption  until  the  close  of  the 
Norwegian  occupation  of  the  Isles. 

'   Cliiuuioles  of  Miui  :   Tui-faeus. 


King  Alexander  III.  being  a  minor  for  many 
years  after  his  father's  death,  and  Ewin  of  Lorn 
having  been  humbled  by  his  recent  defeat,  Donald 
of  Isla  had  little  to  fear  from  enemies  from  without, 
and  during  the  remainder  of  his  life  we  hear  of  him 
no  more  as  a  man  of  war.  That  his  life  had  been  a 
stormy  one,  and  not  altogether  free  from  the  crimes 
and  excesses  common  in  that  age,  the  traditional 
historian  leads  us  to  infer.^  The  same  authority 
informs  us  that  he  and  his  uncle  Dugall  having  dis- 
corded, probably  about  some  barren  promontory  in 
Mull,  the  latter  was  killed  by  Donald.  After  this 
King  Alexander  sent  a  messenger  to  Argyll,  Sir 
William  Rollock,  to  demand  of  Donald  allegiance  for 
his  lands.  Sir  William  got  decapitation  for  his 
pains.  Still  further,  and  to  fill  the  cup  to  the  brim, 
this  man  of  blood  and  iron  put  to  death  Galium 
Aluinn,  the  son  of  Gillies,  the  son  of  Somerled, 
and  banished  Gillies  himself  to  Ireland,  where  some 
of  his  descendants  remain  to  this  day.  It  is 
not  surprising  that  these  deeds  of  violence,  con- 
sidered enormities  even  in  an  age  when  might 
was  right,  combined  with  his  early  depredations 
in  the  North  of  Ireland,  should  when  reflection 
came  have  caused  qualms  of  conscience  in  Donald's 
breast,  which  only  the  unction  of  the  supreme  fount 
of  spiritual  authority  on  earth  could  assuage.  To 
Rome,  therefore,  the  conscience-stricken  chief  made 
a  pilgrimage. 

We  trust  that  in  such  an  emergency  the  elements 
were  propitious,  and  that,  after  a  long  voyage,  when 
the  penitent  descendant  of  Conn  arrived  in  the 
Eternal  City,  accompanied  by  seven  priests  —  a 
sacred  number  of  a  sacred  order — he  was  not  left 

1  Hugh  Macdouald's  MS. 

72  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

outside  by  the  successor  of  St  Peter  longer  than  the 
interests  of  discipL'ne  absolutely  demanded.  Donald, 
having  made  his  confession  in  the  only  tongue  with 
which  he  was  familiar,  and  this  having  been  made 
intelHgible  to  the  Holy  Father  by  the  learned  clerics 
from  the  Isles,  received  the  absolution  that  he 
craved.  Having  thus  obtained  the  forgiveness  of 
the  Church,  it  would  appear  that  Donald,  in  his 
future  relations  with  that  body,  brought  forth  fruits 
worthy  of  repentance.^  Like  his  father  and  many 
of  his  successors,  he  enriched  the  Church  with 
valuable  gifts  of  land."-'  From  this  Donald  the  Clan 
takes  its  name,  a  fact  which  indicates  his  prominence 
in  the  history  of  his  race,  and  the  impression  he 
created  on  the  age  in  which  he  flourished.  It  is  also 
observable  that  in  his  time,  or  more  probably  shortly 
after  it,  fixed  patronymics  came  into  existence  in 
the  Highlands,  while  in  the  Lowlands  tlie  surnames 
adopted  were  generally  territorial.  The  collateral 
branches  of  the  house  of  Somerled  after  Donald 
were  more  or  less  independent  of  one  another, 
and  in  order  to  avoid  confusion,  such  patronymics 
as  Macruairi,  MacDugall,  Mac  A.llister,  and  others 
became  fixed.  After  this  period,  or  at  anyrate  after 
the  middle  of  the  fourteenth  century,  there  is  no 
record  of  a  new  patronymic  springing  from  the 
house  of  Somerled.  The  word  Donald,  which  in 
Gaelic  is  DomltnuU,  appears  in  its  oldest  form  as 
Domvall  =  \)nmno  Valdos,  "a  world  wielder."^ 

According  to  the  historian  of  Sleat,  Donald  died 
at  Skipness  in  1289,  but  this  date  is  clearly 
incorrect,  for  many  years  before  then  his  successor 
was  head  and   representative  of  the  family.     The 

'  What  amount  uf  cicdfiice  is  to  lie  attaclud  Lu  Uii.-s  sLiuy  it  i«  ilillicult  Lo 
say.     It  (l(jc.s  nut  jioHscs.-i  inucli  ex  facie  inubability, 
^  Orig.  Tar.  Scot.,  Chart,  uf  Paisley. 
^  Vide  Book  of  ])ecr. 


date  of  his  death  is  very  probably  prior  to  124'J, 
for  before  that  date  we  find  his  son  Angus  giving 
a  charter  for  part  of  his  lands  in  Kintyre.^  He 
was  buried  in  that  sacred  isle  in  which,  after  life's 
fitful  fever,  many  of  the  Kings  of  Tnnse-Gall 
peacefully  repose.  By  a  daughter  of  Walter,  the 
High  Steward  of  Scotland,  he  had  two  sons — 
Angus,  afterwards  known  as  Angus  Mor,  and 

During  the  minority  of  Alexander  III.,  compata- 
tive  quietness  reigned  over  Argyll  and  the  Isles. 
It  was  different  in  other  parts  of  Scotland.  The 
kingdom  was  torn  asunder  by  factions  among  the 
nobility,  and  it  was  not  until  11^62,  when  the 
young  King  came  of  age,  that  comparative  order 
was  restored.  Once  more  the  idea  of  annexing  the 
Isles  became  the  policy  of  the  Crown ;  and  Alexander 
III.,  adopting  the  methods  of  his  father,  used  every 
means,  both  by  conciliation  and  aggression,  to 
bring  the  Celtic  chiefs  of  the  west  under  his  control. 
He  made  special  efforts  to  secure  the  allegiance  of 
Angus  Mor  of  Isla,  and  seems  so  far  to  have  suc- 
ceeded in  disarming  the  opposition  of  the  Island 
lord,^  He  held  his  infant  son  Alexander  as 
hostage,^  and  an  instrument  was  drawn  out  declar- 
ing the  instant  forfeiture  of  Angus  if  he  deserted 
the  King's  cause.  The  hollow  allegiance  proved  of 
short  duration. 

^  Orig.  Par.  Scot.,  Kilkerrau. 

^  Matth.  Paris,  770.  Autiquariun  Transactions,  3C7-8.  Scriptum 
obligatorium  Anegi  Douonaldi  quod  exhaeredetur  si  furisfecerit  contra  regem 
Scotiae. — Sir  Joseph  Ayloffe's  Calendar  of  Ancient  Charters,  p.  328.  Litera 
baronum  de  Ergadia  quod  fideliter  servient  regi  sub  poena  exliaeredatioiiis 
contra  Anegum  filium  Doveualdi,  quod  omnes  insurgent  contra  ipsuui,  si  nou 
fecerit  voluntatem  regis. — Ibid,  p.  342. 

^  In  the  Scottish  Chanibei-lain's  Accounts  there  is  the  followiug  entry : — 
"  For  the  expenses  of  the  son  of  Angus,  who  was  the  son  of  Donald,  with  liis 
nurse  and  a  waiting  woman  for  two  weeks,  the  King  jjaid  79  shillings  and  nine 

f4  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

For  some  time  matters  had  been  ripening  for  a 
decisive  conflict  between  Scotland  and  Norway  as  to 
the  possession  of  the  Isles,  We  have  already  seen 
that,  after  the  death  of  Angus  MacSomerled  and  his 
sons  in  Moidart  in  1192,  their  possessions  including 
Bute,  passed  to  Keginald,  and  thereafter  to  his  son 
E-oderick.  As  already  pointed  out,  James  the  son 
of  Angus  MacSomerled  left  a  daughter,  who  married 
Alexander,  son  and  heir  of  Walter  Stewart  of  Scot- 
land, and  he  in  his  wife's  name  claimed  the  island  of 
Bute.  Roderick  resisted  this  aggression  with  all 
the  force  at  his  command,  but  he  was  ultimately 
disj)ossessed  and  outlawed.  At  the  same  time,  in 
the  North-west  of  Scotland,  events  were  hastening 
the  inevitable  crisis.  An  assault  was  made  upon 
the  Norwegian  Kingdom  of  Man  and  the  Isles  by 
Ferchar  Macintaggart,  a  son  of  the  Red  Priest  of 
Applecross,  and  the  fii-st  of  the  Earls  of  Ross  of 
that  family.  He  had  been  knighted  by  Alexander 
II.  for  his  services  in  quelling  an  insurrection  in 
Moray, ^  and  by  the  same  King  he  was  advanced 
to  the  dignity  of  Earl  of  Ross  for  services  rendered 
in  the  suppression  of  a  rising  of  the  men  of  Galloway.^ 
Macintaggart  and  several  of  his  vassals  made  a 
ruthless  descent  upon  Skye.  According  to  the 
Norse  Sagas,  they  sacked  villages,  desecrated 
churches,  and  in  wanton  fury  raised  children  on 
the  points  of  their  spears  and  shook  them  until 
they  fell  to  the  ground.  Scottish  aggressiveness 
had  thus,  both  north  and  south,  displayed  such 
rapacity  and  violence  that  the  Island  Chiefs,  having 
taken  counsel  together,  resolved  to  solicit  the  inter- 
vention of  Norway.     From  this  conference  Ewin  of 

^  Chrouk-a  de  Mailios,  117. 
2  Clirouica  dc  Mailros,  145.      Orig.  Par.  Scot.,  vol.  II.,  4S6. 


Lorn  absented  himself.  Smarting  under  the 
remembrance  of  the  treatment  formerly  dealt  out 
to  him  by  Haco,  he  seemed  disposed  to  make 
common  cause  with  Alexander. 

Haco,  on  having  been  informed  of  the  outrages 
perpetrated  on  his  vassals  in  the  Northern  Isles, 
resolved  upon  immediate  action.  Having  equipped 
a  large  fleet,  he  set  sail  from  Herlover  on  the  7th 
July,  and  coming  by  Shetland  and  Orkney,  he 
arrived  in  the  Isles  about  the  middle  of  August.  In 
Skye  he  was  joined  by  the  barons  of  the  North  Isles, 
and,  going  south  by  Mull  to  Kerrera,  by  Dugall,^ 
the  son  of  Roderick.  Angus  Mor  of  Isla  and  Kintyre 
soon  afterwards  joined  the  Norwegian  forces,  and 
Allan,  the  son  of  Roderick,  was  also  associated  with 
them  in  the  campaign.^  All  the  jDrinces  of  the  House  of 
■Somerled,  with  the  exception  of  Ewin  of  Lorn,  appear 
to  have  formed  an  alliance  with  the  Norwegians  in 
this  memorable  expedition.  Roderick  of  Bute,  who 
had  been  their  envoy  to  Norway,  accompanied  the 
Norsemen  on  their  voyage  to  the  Sudoreys,  and 
during  the  hostilities  that  ensued  the  knowledge  of 
the  western  seas  which  his  piratical  career  had 
enabled  him  to  acquire  proved  of  much  service. 
The  losses  and  indignities  which  he  had  suffered 
at  the  hands  of  the  Scottish  King  and  his  nobles 
spurred  him  on  to  many  revengeful  deeds. 

Divisions  of  Haco's  fleet  were  sent  hither  and 
thither  to  devastate  and  plunder  on  the  coasts  of 
Argyll,  led  principally  by  Angus  Mor,  Roderick,  and 
his  sons  Dugall  and  Allan.  Sailing  up  Loch  Long, 
and  drawing  their  boats  across  the  isthmus  of 
Tarbat,  they  came  to  Loch  Lomond,  and  penetrating 
to  the  country  of  Lennox,  on  the  far  side  of  that 

^  Haco's  Expedition,  77  '■'  Ibid. 


famous  loch,  they  laid  it  waste  with  fire  and  sword. 
The  result  of  the  early  part  of  Haco's  expedition  was 
the  re-establishment  of  the  Norwegian  authority  in 
the  Northern  Isles  and  the  restoration  of  Bute  to 

Several  overtures  for  peace  passed  between  Haco 
and  Alexander,  but  with  no  definite  result.  Delay 
was  the  policy  of  the  Scots,  and  as  the  equinoctial 
gales  were  within  measurable  distance — the  summer 
being  past — time  was  in  their  favour.  Haco  w^as 
far  from  the  base  of  operations,  and  the  difficulty  of 
maintaining  his  grasp  of  the  Isles  on  the  flank  of  a 
growing  power  like  Scotland,  demanded  sacrifices 
more  than  commensurate  with  the  interests  at 
stake.  One  struggle  more  was,  how^ever,  to  take 
place.  The  battle  of  Largs  was  by  no  means  the 
decisive  conflict  which  it  was  described  to  have  been. 
The  exaggerated  accounts  of  Scottish  historians, 
whose  imaginations  leave  25,000  Norsemen  dead 
on  the  fleld,  are  unworthy  of  belief  On  that 
memorable  occasion,  doubtless,  the  Scots  led  by 
their  valiant  King  fought  with  determined  courage  ; 
but  the  battle  on  land  was  indecisive,  and  were  it 
not  that  the  elements  rose  in  their  fury,  driving  the 
fleet  of  Haco  from  the  coast  and  dispersing  it, 
victory  might  have  rested  on  the  Norwegian  aims. 
Be  this  as  it  may,  the  battle  of  Largs  did  not  in  any 
sense  result  in  the  conquest  of  the  Western  Isles  by 
Scotland.  The  cession  of  the  Isles  was  accomplished, 
not  by  conquest,  but  by  di^Dlomatic  negotiations, 
carried  to  a  successful  issue  in  1266,  three 
years  afterwards.  The  terms  of  agreement  were 
that  4000  merks  sterling  be  paid  to  Norway, 
together    with    an    annual    tribute    or    quit-rent    of 

'  Haco's  Expedition,  p.  65. 


100  merks  sterling,  called  the  Annual  of  Norway, 
to  be  paid  in  the  Church  of  Saint  Magnus  in 
Orkney.  The  King  of  Man  became  a  vassal  of 
Alexander,  and  the  parties  to  the  Treaty  undertook 
their  respective  obligations  under  a  penalty  of 
10,000  merks,  to  be  exacted  by  the  Pope.  Per- 
mission was  accorded  to  the  Norse  inhabitants  of 
the  Isles  either  to  emigrate  to  Norway  or,  if  they 
preferred  it,  to  remain  under  the  new  conditions. 
It  is  probable,  though  history  does  not  record  the 
fact,  that  many  availed  themselves  of  this  permission 
to  return  to  Norway. 

From  the  generous  terms  which  Alexander 
offered  to  his  opponents  in  the  Isles  and  on  the 
mainland,  it  is  clear  that  he  did  not  feel  altogether 
secure  in  the  possession  of  his  new  dominions,  and 
thus  believed  a  conciliatory  policy  to  be  the  safest 
and  best.  John  of  Fordun  states  that  a  military 
-force  was  sent  to  the  Isles  against  the  chiefs  who 
had  joined  Haco,  and  that  some  of  them  were 
executed  and  all  reduced.  Fortunately  for  them- 
selves, they  were  only  executed  in  John  of  Fordun's 
imagination.  What  we  find,  on  the  contrary,  is 
that  even  Roderick,  the  prime  mover  of  Haco's 
expedition,  continued  in  possession  of  all  his  exten- 
sive territories,  with  the  exception  of  Bute,  which 
he  had  to  resign.  If  any  one  deserved  hanging, 
from  the  Scottish  point  of  view,  Roderick  was  the 
man.  His  fate  was  a  very  different  one.  His 
family  became  known  afterwards  as  the  Macruairis 
of  Garmoran  and  the  North  Isles.  They  were  often 
styled  de  Insulis,  as  were  other  cadets  of  the  house 
of  Somerled  for  centuries  thereafter — the  main  line 
alone  using  the  designation  de  He.  Ewin  of  Lorn, 
who   although   hostile   to    Norway   seems   to   have 

/  8  THE    CLAX    DOXALD. 

preserved  a  judicious  neutrality,  continued  to  enjoy 
his  ancestral  possessions,  while  Angus  Mor  of  Isla 
remained  unmolested  in  his  extensive  territories. 

It  is  not  easy  to  define  with  clearness  the  exact 
relation  of  the  House  of  Somerled  to  Norway  and 
Scotland  before  and  after  the  years  1263-66. 
The  Southern  Isles  having  been  handed  down  by 
Somerled  as  an  independent  possession,  were  similarly 
held  by  his  sons  and  grandsons.  There  are  certain 
passages  in  the  Saga  on  Haco's  expedition,  which 
convey  the  impression  that  these  Southern  Isles  were 
re-conveyed  to  Norway.  It  is  stated  that  Angus 
Mor  was  willing  to  surrender  his  lands  to  Haco,  who 
afterwards,  we  are  told,  "  bestowed  Ila,  taken  by  his 
troops,  on  the  valiant  Angus,  the  generous  distributor 
of  the  beauteous  ornaments  of  the  hands." ^  It  can- 
not be  true  that  the  territories  of  Angus  Mor  were 
both  willingly  surrendered  by  him,  and  at  the  same 
time  taken  from  him  by  force.  The  series  of  events 
leading  to  the  battle  of  Largs ;  the  mission  of 
Roderick  to  Norway  as  the  ambassador  of  the  Island 
chiefs;  Haco's  response  to  their  representations  in 
the  equipment  of  his  great  armament,  all  this  forbids 
the  sup2)osition  of  any  hostile  movement  against  the 
Island  Lords.  If  Haco  desired  their  loyal  co-opera- 
tion, it  would  have  been  bad  policy  to  begin  with 
a  forcible  annexation  of  their  possessions.  The 
association  of  Haco  with  the  princes  of  the  House 
of  Somerled  was  neither  more  nor  less  than  the 
formation  of  a  league,  offensive  and  defensive,  to 
repel  the  aggressiveness  of  the  Scottish  realm. 
If  Norway  ceded  the  Southern  Isles  to  Scotland 
in  1266,  she  gave  over  what  she  never  possessed 
since   these   Isles   were   wrested    from    Godred    of 

»  The  Raven's  Ode,  p.  r»7. 


Man  in  1156.  There  is  not  a  scrap  of 
evidence  to  show  that  from  the  days  of  Somerled 
down  to  Bruce's  Charter  to  Angus  Og,  a  period 
of  150  years,  there  was  any  effective  acknowledg- 
ment of  superiority  by  the  princes  of  the  Southern 
Isles  either  to  Norway  or  Scotland,  if  we  except  Bute 
alone.  It  is  now  evident  that  a  new  chapter  in  the 
history  of  the  Isles  is  opening.  The  feudal  system 
has,  theoretically  at  least,  knit  into  a  complete  whole 
the  social  fabric  of  the  Scottish  nation.  But,  with 
the  people  of  the  Highlands,  and  particularly  with 
the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  the  superiority  of  the  Crown 
was  but  a  name,  and  for  hundreds  of  years  there  was 
witnessed  a  continual  struggle  on  the  part  of  the 
Celtic  system  to  assert  itself  against  the  claims  of 
feudal  Scotland.  In  this  struggle  the  Kings  of 
Innse-Gall  were  the  principal  actors.  Circumstances 
at  times  may  have  compelled  them  to  accept  of 
charters  for  their  lands  and  render  an  insincere 
allegiance ;  but  the  traditions  of  independence 
long  survived,  and  are  largely  accountable  for  the 
turbulence  and  disorder  that  mark  the  history  of 
the  Scottish  Highlands. 

80  THE    CLAN    DOXxVLD. 


BRUCE  AMD  THE  CLAN  CHOLLA. -1284-1329. 

Death  of  Alexander  III.,  and  subsequent  Anarchy. — Angus  Mor's 
Relation  to  Scottish  Parties. — Convention  of  Estates  Settling 
Crown. — Angus  Mor  favours  the  Bruce  Interest. — Death  of 
Angus  Mor. — Division  of  Territories.  —  Alexander  of  Isla 
Supports  England. — Defeat  by  Bruce,  Captivity,  and  Death. 
— Angus  Og  joins  Pruce. — Bannoekburn. — Death  of  Angus 

Alexander  III.  lived  for  twenty-two  years  after  the 
battle  of  Largs.  His  death,  in  1284,  deprived  Scot- 
land of  one  of  its  wisest  rulers,  in  whose  time  she 
made  considerable  progress  in  settled  government  and 
the  arts  of  peace.  His  tragic  end  was  the  cause  of  a 
series  of  disasters  unparalleled  in  the  darkest  period  of 
Scottish  history.  It  was  felt  by  the  thoughtful 
spirits  of  the  time  that  the  land  was  on  tlie  brink  of 
unprecedented  afflictions  : — 

When  Alexandyr  our  king  was  dede 
"^rhat  Scotland  led  in  lowe  and  le, 
Away  was  sons  of  ale  and  brede 
Of  wync  and  wax,  of  gamyn  and  gle. 
Oure  gold  is  changed  into  ledc — 
Christ  born  into  virgynyte 
Succour  Scotland  and  remede 
That  stodt  is  in  perplexyte.^ 

The  death  of  Alexander's  heiress,  the  Maid  of 
Norway,  on  her  way  to  Scotland,  in  1290,  introduced 
still  furtiier  confusion  into  the  aftairs  of  the  realm, 

'  Wyntouii, 


^^  i'S? 



'^<s  '^?a' 



and  Edward  I.,  one  of  the  ablest,  as  well  as  most 
ambitious,  of  English  soldiers  and  statesmen,  sought 
to  bring  the  distracted  country  to  acknowledge  the 
claim  of  paramount  authority  advanced  by  England 
since  the  days  of  William  the  Lion,  but  never  actually 
admitted.  The  claims  of  Balliol  and  Bruce  to  the 
crown  ;  the  short  and  humiliating  reign  of  the  former  ; 
the  valiant  stand  for  Scottish  independence  made  by 
Sir  William  Wallace ;  the  rise,  the  struggles,  the 
hardships,  the  eventual  triumj)h  of  the  younger 
Bruce,  and  finally  his  vindication  of  his  country's 
freedom,  all  these  followed  one  another  in  close  and 
somewhat  rapid  succession. 

The  light  which  the  records  of  the  time  throw 
upon  the  relationship  subsisting  between  the  Chief 
of  the  Clan  ChoUa  and  the  other  leaders  in  the 
political  turmoil  of  that  period  is  somewhat  dim  and 
uncertain.  It  is  difficult,  therefore,  if  not  impossible, 
to  arrive  at  a  satisfactory  conclusion  as  to  the  exact 
position  and  attitude  of  the  Island  Chief  amid  so 
many  conflicting  and  tumultuous  elements.  Refer- 
ence has  already  been  made  to  the  state  of  matters 
in  the  Highlands  and  Islands  at  the  time  of  Haco's 
expedition,  and  the  allocation  of  lands  that  followed 
on  the  Scoto-Norse  treaty  of  1266.  The  assertion  of 
independence  characteristic  of  the  Clan  Cholla  is  borne 
out  by  the  treatment  meted  out  to  Angus  Mor  of  Isla 
by  Alexander  III.  Angus,  as  a  matter  of  policy,  had 
espoused  the  cause  of  Haco  of  Norway  rather  than 
that  of  Alexander  of  Scotland.  The  formidable  arma- 
ment, headed  by  Haco,  appeared  more  than  a  match 
for  the  Scottish  fleet,  and  Angus  Mor,  consulting  the 
interests  and  independence  of  his  own  domains, 
unhesitatingly  threw  in  his  lot  with  what  seemed  to 
be  the  stronger  power.     In  any  case,  whether  the 

82  •  THE    CLAN    PONALD. 

victory  lay  with  Alexander  or  Haco,  Angus  would 
probably  have  held  his  own. 

King  Alexander,  however,  notwithstanding  the 
opposition  of  the  Island  Chief,  does  not  seem  to 
have  interfered  effectively  with  his  territorial  posi- 
tion. There  are  indications,  doubtless,  that  towards 
the  end  of  Alexander's  reign  Angus  appears  in 
relations  towards  the  crown  which  are  distinctly  of 
a  hostile  nature.  Evidence  of  this  is  afforded  by 
letters  which  were  addressed  to  the  other  barons 
of  Argyll,  in  1282,  calling  upon  them  to  serve  the 
King  faithfully  against  Angus  Jilius  Dovenaldi  under 
pain  of  being  disinherited.^  If  Angus  exhibited  on 
this  occasion  a  spirit  of  insubordination  against  the 
State,  he  was  not  solely  responsible  for  the  disturb- 
ances which  arose  in  Argyll  and  the  Isles  in  1482. 
In  tliese  the  MacDougalls  of  Lorn  and  their  allies 
were  largely  involved,  and  the  disorder  seems  to 
have  arisen  to  such  a  height  as  to  demand  the 
interference  of  the  Earl  of  Buchan,  who  was  the 
Constable  of  Scotland.^  Beyond  this  there  is  nothing 
to  shew  that  the  Chief  of  the  Clan  Cholla  was 
seriously  involved  in  the  intrigues  of  the  period,  or 
that  he  was  keenly  or  aggressively  associated  with 
any  of  the  factious  elements  into  which  the  Scottish 
nation  was  then  unhappily  divided.  That  Angus 
Mor  was,  shortly  after  this,  on  friendly  terms  with 
King  Alexander  appears  from  the  circumstance  that 
he  was  one  of  the  three  nobles  of  Argyll  who,  in 
1284,  attended  the  Convention  of  Estates  convened 
to  settle  the  succession  to  the  throne,  the  other  two 
being  Alexander  MacDugall  of  Lorn  and  Allan 
Macruari  of  Garmoran.^     At  this  meeting  Margaret, 

^  Act  Pari.  Scot.  Appendix.  -  llymer's  Fosdera,  vul.  II.,  p.  205. 

^  Kymer's  Focdera,  p.  760. 




commonly  called  the  Maid  of  Norway,  grand- 
daughter of  the  King,  was  declared  heiress  to  the 
throne.  It  is  difficult  to  account  for  the  presence 
at  this  meeting  of  such  men  as  Angus  Mor  and 
his  kinsmen,  whose  aims  proved  afterwards  to  be 
diametrically  opj)osed  to  those  of  the  King  and  the 
majority  of  his  Parliament.  From  what  followed  in 
subsequent  years,  we  are  warranted  in  concluding 
that  the  presence  of  the  descendants  of  Somerled  at 
the  Convention  in  1282  did  not  arise  from  sincere 
concurrence  in  the  decision  arrived  at,  but  from  the 
desire  to  conform  to  the  royal  summons.  Another 
Parliament  met  at  Scone  in  April,  1286 — about  two 
years  after  the  King's  death — at  which  six  guardians 
of  the  realm  were  appointed.  In  this  Parliament  a 
keen  discussion  took  place  between  the  partisans  of 
Bruce  and  Balliol  regarding  the  succession  to  the 
throne,  which  resulted  in  the  formation  of  a  strong 
party  against  the  succession  of  the  Maid  of  Norway. 
In  September  of  the  same  year  a  meeting  of  this 
party  took  place  at  Turnberry,  the  seat  of  the 
elder  Bruce,  and  among  those  present  were  Angus 
of  Isla  and  his  son,  Alexander.  Again,  in  1288, 
when  the  Council  of  the  Regency  came  to  be 
divided  in  opinion  regarding  the  succession,  the 
Chief  of  Clan  Cholla  formed  a  bond  of  association 
with  James,  High  Steward  of  Scotland,  John  his 
brother,  Walter  Earl  of  Menteith,  and  his  two 
sons,  the  Earl  of  Dunbar,  and  others  who  favoured 
the  claims  of  Bruce.  ^  There  is  thus  no  evidence, 
actual  or  inferred,  but  rather  the  opposite,  that 
Angus  Mor  ever  played  a  part  inimical  to  the 
interests  of  the  family  of  Bruce,  although  the 
frailties  of  old  age  prevented  his  interposing 
actively  on  their  behalf     The  testimony  of  history 

1  CiiiiiraniUa  History,  181!l,  p.  :J1. 

84  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

is  clear  in  favour  of  the  view  that  he  continued 
steadfast  in  his  support  of  the  claims  of  the  elder 
Bruce,  while  he  was  equally  consistent  in  his 
opposition  to  those  of  Balliol,  even  after  the  latter 
had  been  raised  to  the  shadowy  honour  of  king- 
ship as  the  vassal  of  Edward  I.  In  1292  King 
John  Balliol  ordered  Alexander  of  Argyll  and  his 
baillies  of  Lochaw  to  summon  Sir  Angus,  the  son 
of  Donald,  and  others  to  do  him  homage  within 
fifteen  days  after  Easter  wheresoever  he  might  be 
within  Scotland,  Though  his  citation  was  repeated 
in  1293,  Angus  Mor  of  Isla  seems  to  have  given  no 
response  either  to  the  one  or  the  other/  He  lived 
for  a  part  of  the  last  decade  of  the  13th  century  ;  but 
though,  with  Byron,  we  "  like  to  be  particular  in 
dates,"  the  exact  year  of  his  death  cannot  easily 
be  determined.  From  the  meagre  annals  of  his 
time,  we  can  gather  that  Angus  was  not  behind 
his  predecessors  in  those  characteristics  of  courage 
and  chivalry  that  always  distinguished  the  chiefs  of 
Clan  ChoUa.  He  died,  according  to  the  Book  of 
Clanranald,  at  his  seat  in  Isla,  and  was  buried  at 
"  Columkill,  the  sacred  storehouse  of  his  pre- 
decessors, and  guardian  of  their  bones." 

The  extensive  territories  of  Angus  Mor  were 
divided  among  his  sons.  Alexander  succeeded  hun 
in  Isla  and  other  territories  on  the  mainland  of 
Argyll ;  Angus  received  the  lordship  of  Kintyre ; 
while  the  lands  of  Ardnamurchan  were  bestowed 
by  King  Balliol  upon  John  Spraiigach,^  the 
youngest  of  his  sons. 

Alexander  of  Isla  appears  for  the  fii'st  time  on 
the  historical  stage  with  his  father  at  the  meeting 
already  referred  to,  at  Turnberry,  to  further  the 
Bruce  interest.     In   1291,  the  next  time  he  comes 

'  Scot.  Act.  Pari.  -  SpraiiKuch  signifies  the  "bold." 


before  us,  he  is  found  acting  an  entirely  different 
character,  giving  the  oath  of  allegiance  to  the 
English  King.^  He  had  become  closely  allied  by 
marriage  with  the  family  of  Lorn,  and  through 
them  associated  with  the  English  interest,  and 
although  in  his  father's  lifetime  he  does  not 
appear  to  have  taken  a  leading  part  on  either  side, 
now,  as  the  struggle  becomes  keener,  we  find  him 
throwing  the  whole  weight  of  his  power  and 
influence  into  the  scale  of  southern  aggression. 
There  were,  at  an  early  stage  of  the  conflict,  many 
letters  addressed  to  him  from  the  Eng-lish  Court 
and  in  the  interests  of  the  English  party,  and  from 
the  rewards  which  afterwards  followed,  the  services 
which  he  rendered  to  that  cause  seem  to  have  been 
very  considerable.^ 

Although  the  House  of  Isla  has  at  this  stage 
begun  to  take  the  part  of  England  in  the  eflbrt 
to  accomplish  the  conquest  of  Scotland,  it  is  only 
on  an  inadequate  view  of  the  situation  that  the 
historian  can  pronounce  its  representatives  to  be 
lacking  in  true  patriotism.  The  Scottish  claim  to 
the  Western  Isles  was  of  too  recent  date  to  admit 
of  a  strong  feeling  of  loyalty  to  the  Crown  in  that 
region  ;  and  to  accuse  the  Island  princes  of  that  time 
of  a  lack  of  patriotism  in  the  part  they  played  is  a 
pure  anachronism,  and  ignores  the  political  condi- 
tions of  the  time.  Besides  all  this,  it  must  not  be 
forgotten  that  the  sympathies  of  the  Lords  of  the 
Isles  must  have  been  with  the  old  Celtic  system, 
which  was  only  gradually  disappearing  before  the 
influence  of  Teutonic  culture ;    that  they  regarded 

^  Similiter  Alf^xander  de  Agarithell  doniinus  de  Lorun  &  Alexander  de 
Isles,  filius  Anegu  filii  Donevauldi,  facranientum  prestiterunt  de  se  fideliter, 
&c.  — AylofFe's  Cal.  of  Ancient  Charters,  p.  291. 

-  Pcedera  Anglia. 

86  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  Norman  barons  who  had  supplanted  the  old 
Mormaors  not  as  the  real  children  of  the  soil,  but 
as  strangers  and  interlopers  in  the  land,  and  that 
the  Crown  itself,  as  the  keystone  in  the  arch  of 
feudalism,  must  have  appeared  to  them  in  the 
light  of  a  comparatively  modern  institution,  and 
lacking  in  the  lustre  of  a  venerable  antiquity. 
Hence  there  is  nothing  that  need  suprise  us  in 
the  fact  that,  after  the  death  of  Angus  Mor,  his 
son  and  successor,  Alexander  of  Isla,  is  found 
upon  the  side  opposed  to  Scottish  independence. 

In  the  year  1295  we  find  the  English  King 
summoning  King  John  Balliol  before  him  to  answer 
for  withholding  the  lands  of  Lismore  from  Alexander 
de  Insults  et  Juliance  uxore  sua}  When  Edward 
received  the  submission  of  the  Scottish  nobility  in 
1296,  we  are  told  that  a  grant  of  one  hundred 
pounds  worth  of  land  was  given  to  Alexander  of 
Isla  for  services  rendered  to  the  English  King.^  We 
find  still  further  that  Alexander  held  the  office  of 
Admiral  of  the  Western  Isles  under  the  Eno^lish 
Crown,  after  the  ignominious  termination  of  Balliol's 
reign,  and  it  appears  that  the  position  was  not  by 
any  means  a  sinecure.  From  letters  addressed  to 
the  English  King  in  1297,^  it  is  evident  that  his 
lieutenant,  however  strenuously  he  exercised  his 
commission,  found  it  well  nigh  an  impossible  task 
to  quell  the  insubordination  and  turbulence  of  the 
Western  chiefs.  Among  the  notables  accused  of 
lawless  excesses  in  regions  subject  to  the  authority 
of  Edward,  there  is  reference  to  Roderick,  the  son  of 
Allan,  grandson  of  Koderick  of  Bute  ;  also  to  Ranald, 
another    son    of   Allan,    and    brother    of   the    said 

1  Rotuli  Scotiao,  vol.  L,  p.  21.         ^  Patent  Roll  24,  Ed.  L,  7,  1296,  Sep.  12. 
^  Anderson's  Historical  Documents  of  Scotland,  vol.  IL,  p.  187. 


BRUCE    AJSD    THE    CLAN    CHOLLA.  87 

Roderick,  as  well  as  to  Lachlan  MacRuari,  probably 
a  brother  of  the  former  two/  The  MacRuari  family- 
seem  to  have  inherited  a  large  share  of  the  piratical 
tendencies  of  the  ancient  Vikings,  and  we  find  these 
Highland  rovers,  in  1297,  invading  and  carrying 
slaughter  and  depradations  into  the  islands  of 
Skye  and  Lewis,  and  burning  the  ships  in  the 
service  of  the  King.  It  is  against  Alexander  of 
Lorn,  however,  also  known  as  de  Ergadia,  as 
the  arch  offender,  the  leader  and  instigator  in  these 
irregularities,  that  the  King's  Admiral  makes  the 
chief  complaint  ;  and  this  is  rather  a  singular 
fact,  in  view  of  the  strong  support  which,  very 
shortly  thereafter,  was  given  by  Alexander  and  his 
son  John  to  the  English  interest.  In  the  previous 
year,  1206,  Edward  had  received  Alexander's  sub- 
mission, along  with  that  of  other  Scottish  noblemen, 
at  Elgin,  and  he  seems  to  have  been  subjected  to  a 
short  term  of  imprisonment ;  but  immediately  after 
his  liberation  he,  along  with  his  accomplices,  com- 
mitted the  crimes  against  the  lieges  to  which  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles  makes  reference.  One  of  his 
letters  he  winds  up  with  a  mild  reminder  of 
expenses  incurred  in  the  various  expeditions  con- 
ducted that  year  in  the  King's  service,  as  well  as 
to  a  sum  of  500  pounds  promised  him  the  previous 
year,  but  not  yet  paid,  showing  that  the  sinews 
of  war,  even  in  that  far  past  time,  were  no  less  a 
necessity  than  they  are  now.  It  is  also  interesting 
to  note  that,  at  the  end  of  another  letter,  in  which 
he  invokes  the  royal  aid  in  bringing  the  culprits  to 
justice,  he  seeks  to  be  excused  for  not  having  his 

1  Ranald  we  take  to  be  here  the  equivalent  of  the  Latin  Rolandus,  it  and 
Lachlan  being  MacRuari  names,  and  to  be  met  with  in  the  genealogy  of  the 
1450  MS 

88  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

own  proper  seal  in  his  possession,  and  thus  having 
to  adhibit  to  "  these  presents "  the  seal  of  Juliana, 
his  wife.-^ 

From  the  foregoing  circumstances  it  appears  that 
Alexander  de  He  had  received  ample  recognition  of 
his  services  to  the  King  of  England,  a  recognition 
which  stimulated  him  to  still  more  zealous  efforts  in 
his  jDatron's  cause.  From  1297  to  1308  we  find  no 
further  mention  of  Alexander,  though  in  the  interval 
it  is  likely  enough  he  did  not  allow  his  sword  to  rust 
in  its  sheath.  In  1306  Kobert  Bruce  was  crowned 
at  Scone,  a  King  without  a  kingdom,  and  this  was 
the  beginning  of  a  career  as  interesting  as  the  most 
thrilling  pages  in  the  history  of  chivalry  and 
romance.  The  enemies  of  his  house  now  draw 
closer  to  one  another,  and  a  strong  combination 
was  formed  against  the  heroic  King.  Alexander 
of  Isla  was  a  powerful  and  important  factor 
in  this  combination.  So  in  1308  we  find  him 
fighting  against  Bruce  in  the  district  of  Galloway, 
aided  by  MacDowall,  lord  of  that  region.  This 
district  continued  obstinately  to  resist  the  King's 
authority  and  was  at  the  time  occupied  by  English 
troops.  Bruce  sent  his  brother  Edward  against 
them,  and  he  prosecuted  the  campaign  with  such 
vipfour  and  success  that  he  soon  reduced  the 
country,  defeated  the  combined  forces  of  Sir 
Roland  of  Galloway  and  Alexander  of  Isla  on 
the  banks  of  the  Dee,  and  compelled  the  inhabi- 
tants to  swear  allegiance  to  his  brother  the  King.^ 
In  the  pursuit  that  followed  the  dispersion  of  the 
Gallowegians  and  the  Islesmen,  Edward  Bruce  took 
prisoner   "  The  Prince   of  the  Isles.  "^      Alexander, 

*  Historical  Documents  of  Scotland.  -  Rj'iucr's  Focdera. 

^  Fordun  a  Hcarue,  p.  1005, 


.•/f^mny     ^op.^ 





however,  very  soon  escaped  from  Edward  Bruce's 
custody,  and  betook  himself  to  the  stronghold  of 
Castle  Swen,  in  North  Knaj)dale.^  This  fortress 
commanded  the  entrance  to  Lochs  wen,  and  was 
regarded  as  the  key  to  the  districts  of  Knapdale 
and  Glassary.  As  such,  it  was  deemed  a  position 
of  the  greatest  importance.  In  this  Castle  King 
Robert  Bruce,  fresh  from  his  victory  over  Alexander 
of  Lorn  at  the  Pass  of  Ben  Cruachan,  besieged  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Alexander,  after  defending 
himself  for  several  days  with  the  utmost  determina- 
tion and  bravery,  was  obliged  to  surrender  to  the 
King.  Bruce  sent  him  forthwith  a  prisoner  to 
Dundonald  Castle  in  Kintyre,  where  he  is  said 
to  have  died  soon  after.  At  all  events  we  hear 
no  more  of  Alexander  of  Isla  in  the  struggle  in 
which  he  had  taken  so  prominent  a  part,  and  he 
falls  to  be  buried  out  of  sight  amid  the  ruins  of 
the  cause  he  had  so  strenuously  supported.  The 
fortunes  of  war  had  been  unfavourable  to  him  and 
to  his  family,  and  the  representation  and  honours 
of  Siol  Chuinn  pass  for  ever  from  their  grasp. 
Alexander  left  four  sons — Reginald,  Black  John, 
Angus,  and  Charles.  These  and  their  progeny, 
victims  of  the  fate  which  raised  a  younger  brother 
to  the  dignity  and  honour  of  their  father's  house, 
lost  the  premier  position  in  the  Clan  Cholla,  though 
undoubtedly  in  the  light  of  primogeniture  they  were 
the  senior  family  of  the  line  of  Somerled.  Whether 
they  preserved  any  vestige  of  their  ancestral  pos- 
sessions ;  whether  in  the  subsequent  history  of  the 
Clan    their   descendants   left    behind    them  a  local 

^  In  Buchanan's  Account  of  the  Campaign  in  Galloway,  he  mistakenly 
refers  to  Alexander  as  Donaldus  himlanus.  The  Lords  of  the  Isles  are  a'l 
Donald  with  this  historian. 

90  THE    CLAN    DONALD.  ' 

habitation  and  a  name,  or  whether  through  the  lack 
of  territorial  ^jre6'^i(/e  and  poHtical  influence  the 
family  and  name  sank  into  insignificance,  is  a  question 
which,  meanwhile,  must  be  left  unanswered,  as  it 
will  more  fictingly  fah  to  be  dealt  with  under  the 
genealogical  section  of  this  work. 

Angus  Og  Macdonald  succeeded  his  brother 
Alexander,  in  1308,  both  in  his  lands  and  in  the 
chiefship  of  the  Clan.  In  tracing  his  career,  we 
must  again  traverse  a  portion  of  the  ground  of 
general  Scottish  history  embraced  in  the  period 
in  which  his  predecessor  flourished.  In  1301  w^e 
find  him  equally  zealous  wdth  his  brother  in  his 
efforts  to  hold  the  Western  Isles  of  Scotland  in 
subjection  to  the  English  Crown,  and  along  wdth 
Hugh  Bisset  he  appears  in  a  capacity  somewhat 
similar  to  that  which  Alexander  occupied  four  years 
previously.^  In  a  letter  addressed  to  the  English 
King,  apparently  written  in  October  of  that  year, 
he  reports  that  up  to  the  Lord's  day  immediately 
preceding  Michaelmas,  he  and  the  said  Hugh  Bisset 
had  been  with  the  English  fleet  in  the  island  of 
Bute,  and  that,  at  the  time  he  ^vrote,  he  was 
awaiting  the  royal  commands.  Apparently  the 
loyalty  of  Alexander  of  Lorn  to  the  English 
interest  was  still  under  suspicion.  Angus  Og,  in 
his  statement  to  the  King,  avoids  committing 
himself  to  any  opinion,  either  favourable  or  adverse, 
as  to  the  fidelity  of  the  Lord  of  Lorn.  He  humbly 
requests  the  King,  if  he  believes  in  Lorn's  loyalty, 
to  order  him  to  assist  himself  and  Bisset  in  the 
reduction  of  the  country  ;  but,  failing  such  belief, 

^  Let  tor  from  Engus  dc  Yle  to  King  Edward  respecting  liis  ]irocce(lings 
in  tin;  l.sles  of  Scotland.     Hot.  Scot.  I.,  40-41. 


to  forward  written  instructions  that  they  may, 
with  Divine  help,  be  able  to  overcome  Lorn  and 
all  other  enemies  of  the  King  tlironghout  the 
Western  Isles,  In  the  same  letter  the  sons  of 
Roderick  Mac  Allan,  who  seem  to  have  been  at 
the  time  in  the  custody  of  Angus  Og,  and  whose 
loyalty  is  guaranteed,  are  recommended  to  the 
royal  favour ;  and  it  is  requested  that  they  be 
allowed  to  enter  into  a  pledge  and  compact  of 
fidelity  to  King  Edward  as  to  their  future  sub- 
jection to  his  sway. 

After  this  j^eriod,  until  the  memorable  events  of 
1306,  history  does  not  seem  to  record  with  any 
degree  of  definiteness  the  conduct  of  Angus  towards 
either  of  the  parties  that  strove  for  the  mastery  in 
Scotland.  There  is  not  much  reason,  however,  to 
doubt  that  he  continued  consistently  to  support  the 
authority  of  Edward  I.  But  in  1306  there  was  a 
marked  chang-e.  Bruce's  coronation  at  Scone  on 
March  27  of  that  year  was  soon  followed  by  the 
disastrous  defeat  at  Methven,  and  shortly  thereafter 
by  an  unsuccessful  encounter  with  John  MacDugall 
of  Lorn  at  Dairy,  near  the  end  of  Strathfillan. 
Notwithstanding  the  magnificent  prowess  and 
courage  of  the  King,  his  followers  were  obliged 
to  retire  in  presence  of  superior  numbers.  Under 
the  guidance  of  the  Earl  of  Lennox,  whom  Bruce, 
in  the  course  of  his  subsequent  wanderings,  met 
on  the  shores  of  Lochlomond ;  and  assisted  by  Sir 
Neil  Campbell,  whom  he  had  sent  on  in  advance, 
the  King  reached  the  district  of  Kintyre,  the 
country  of  Angus  Og.  And  here  we  must  pause 
for  a  moment  to  enquire  as  to  the  causes  of  this 
apparently  sudden  change  of  front  on  the  part  of 

92  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  Lord  of  Kintyre/  and  his  truly  Highland  and 
hosijitable  welcome  to  the  royal  fugitive.  As  to 
the  warmth  and  friendliness  of  his  reception, 
Barbour,  the  poetic  biographer  of  Bruce,  does  not 
leave  us  in  doubt  :— 

And  Angus  of  He  that  tynie  was  Syr 

And  lord  and  ledar  of  Kyntyr 

The  King  rycht  weill  resawyt  he 

And  undertook  his  man  to  be 

And  he  and  his  on  mony  wyes 

He  abandowynt  to  his  service 

And  for  mair  sekyrness  gaifF  him  syne 

His  Castle  of  Douaverdyne. 

In  estimating  the  causes  of  this  transference  of 
allegiance  from  Edward  I.  to  Bruce,  we  may  regard 


it  as  possible,  though  far  from  probable,  that  self 
interest  may  have  had  some  weight.  We  know 
that  the  relations  of  Angus  with  the  MacDugalls 
of  Lorn  were  not  of  the  friendliest,  and  that  an  old 
feud  as  to  the  possession  of  Miill  had  not  yet  been 
set  at  rest.  Had  Bruce's  star  been  in  the  ascendant 
in  1306,  we  might  understand  that  considerations  of 

^  Though  Angus'  hrotlier,  Aloxander,  was  at  this  time  head  of  the  Clan, 
Angus,  by  disposition  of  his  father,  was  Lord  of  Kintyre. 


self  interest  might  have  weight  in  determining 
Angus'  action.  But  his  friendhness  to  Bruce  was 
first  shewn  at  a  time  when  his  fortunes  were  most 
depressed  and  his  prospects  of  success  least  hopeful ; 
and  to  all  appearance  there  was  nothing  to  gain,  but 
everything  to  lose,  by  espousing  the  cause  of  the 
newly-crowned  King  of  Scots,  The  motives  by 
which  Angus  Og  was  actuated  at  this  critical 
moment  in  the  fortunes  of  Scotland  are  not  such 
as  have  been  suggested,  but  are  to  be  found  in 
less  interested  and  more  noble  grounds.  Angus 
Mor,  as  we  have  seen,  was,  in  his  latter  years,  a 
steady  supporter  of  the  claims  of  the  elder  Bruce, 
claims  which  appear  to  have  been  abandoned  at  the 
fall  of  Balliol  in  1296,  when  Edward  sought  to  reduce 
Scotland  to  the  position  of  an  English  province. 
During  the  ten  years  that  had  elapsed  since  Balliol's 
deposition,  the  claims  of  the  family  of  Bruce  were  in 
abeyance.  But  now,  in  1306,  these  are  once  more 
advanced  with  most  chivalrous  daring  by  the  young 
Earl  of  Carrick,  and  Angus  Og,  adopting  the 
friendly  attitude  of  his  father,  becomes  associated 
with  the  stirring  events  of  the  war  of  Scottish 

Saddell,  in  whose  castle  the  Lord  of  Kintyre 
first  received  Bruce,  had  many  associations  with  the 
family  of  the  Isles,  not  the  least  of  these  being  that 
the  dust  of  the  "  mighty  Somerled  "  reposed  within 
the  sacred  precincts  of  its  monastery.  The  Castle 
of  Saddell,  at  the  head  of  Saddell  Bay,  is  a  large, 
square  battlemented  tower  still  in  a  state  of  perfect 
preservation.      It   measures    17    yards   by   10,   and 

1  That  Augus  Og  and  Bruce  had  been  frieiKls  in  bygone  times  seems 
implied  in  what  Buchanan  says,  Liber  VIII.  30:— "Et  cum  ne  sic  quidem  sibi 
tutus  a  civiura  perfidia  et  hopiium  erudelitate  videretur  in  ^budas  ad  veterem 
quondam  annicam  tran«niisit.  " 

94  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

is  about  50  feet  in  height.     The  walls  are  of  great 
thickness,  without  buttresses,  and  a  spiral  staircase 
leads    through    three    sets    of    rooms    up    to    the 
embattled    parapet,    whence    a    commanding    view 
can   be   obtained   of  the   western    sea,    as   well   as 
the  shores  of  Kintyre  and  the  picturesque  isle  of 
Arran.     The  inevitable  dungeon  in  all  its  mediaeval 
gloom  is  still  in  evidence  as  a  testimony  to  the  power 
and   sway   of    these    Western    Island    Lords.       As 
Barbour  informs  us,  Angus  Og  took  his  royal  guest 
for  greater   security   to  the    Castle   of  Dunaverty, 
another  Kintyre  stronghold,   and  residence  of  the 
Lords  of  tbe  Isles.     Situated  in  the  parish  of  South- 
end,  on  Dunaverty  Bay,  five  miles  east  by  north 
of  the  Mull  of  Kintyre,   it  stood  on  the  summit 
of  a  peninsula  of  pyramidal  shape,   95  feet  high, 
with   a  cliff  descending  perpendicular  to   the    sea. 
Defended    on  the   land  side  by  a  double  rampart 
and  ditch,  it  was,  both  as  to  site  and  construction, 
a  fortress  of  remarkable  strength,  and  commanded 
the  approach  to  that  part  of  Scotland  where  the 
sea  between  it  and  Ireland  is  narrowest.      It  was 
in    after    times    the     scene    of    some    remarkable 
historical    events.       But    there    is    now    hardly   a 
trace  of  the  once  almost  impregnable  walls ;    only 
on  the  everlasting  rocks   upon  which   it   erstwhile 
stood  do  the  Atlantic  surges  still  dash  and  foam  as 
in  the  days  of  Angus  Og.      Even  here  Bruce  did 
not    tarry    long.        He    knew    that    his    asylum    in 
Kintyre  could  not   be  long  concealed,   and   in  the 
event  of  its  becoming  known  prematurely,   miglit 
expose   his    friendly   host   to   the   ireful   vengeance 
of  the   English    King.       Angus   now   arranged   to 
have    Bruce    quietly    and     secretly    conveyed     to 


Rachrin,^  a  small  island  on  the  Irisli  coast  inhabited 
and  owned  by  members  of  the  Clan  Donald.  Here 
the  King,  befriended  by  Angus  Og,  found  a  safe 
retreat  during  the  following  winter.  This  was  the 
darkest  time  of  Bruce's  fortunes,  and  when  the 
clouds  rolled  by  and  prosperity  smiled  upon  the 
cause,  Angus  Og  shared  in  the  triumphs  and 
rewards  which  accompanied  the  glorious  day  of 
revived  Scottish  freedom. 

As  the  spring  of  1307  drew  nigh,  the  hopes  of 
Bruce  began  to  rise.  The  romantic  interest  that 
belonged  to  his  career  powerfully  appealed  to  the 
female  mind,  and  Christina  of  the  Isles,  the  daughter 
and  heiress  of  Allan  MacPv-uari  of  Garmoran,  was 
among  the  first  to  render  important  aid,^  Keceiving 
favourable  news  from  the  mainland,  the  King  now 
began  to  meditate  a  descent  upon  Scotland,  and 
having  despatched  messengers  from  his  little 
garrison,  he  prejoared  to  take  his  departure.  In 
the  beginning  of  1307,  Angus  Og  placed  a  chosen 
band  of  Highlanders  under  the  command  of  Donald, 
son  of  Alastair  Mor,  and  these  having  crossed  to 
Arran,  were  joined  by  the  King,  who  meanwhile 
had  taken  the  decisive  step  of  quitting  Kachrin 
Isle.^  From  that  day  Angus  Og  of  Isla,  and  with 
him  the  MacBuaris  of  Garmoran,  were  closely 
associated  with  Bruce  in  the  task  of  vindicating 
the  independence  of  Scotland.  In  his  descent 
upon  Carrick,  where  he  "  wan,"  if  not  his  father's 
hall,  at  anyrate  his  father's  territory,  the  Islesmen 

1  "  Ou  the  south-west  frae  the  promontory  of  Kiutyre,  upon  the  coast 
of  Ireland,  be  four  myle  to  land,  layes  an  iyle  callit  Eachlaine,  pertaining  to 
Ireland,  and  possessit  tliir  money  zeires  by  Clan  Donald  of  Kintyre,  four 
myles  longe  end  twa  myle  braid,  guid  laud,  inhabit  and  mauurit."--Muuro, 

^  Fordun. 

^  Claurauaia  History,  1M9. 


bore  an  honourable  part.  The  only  cloud  that 
darkened  the  political  outlook  in  1307  was  the 
defeat  and  capture  of  the  King's  brothers,  Thomas 
and  Alexander,  in  Galloway  by  Koland  MacDowall, 
lord  of  that  region.  It  is  recorded  that  Angus 
Og  took  part  in  that  engagement,  but  escaped  the 
disaster  that  overtook  his  friends,^  Next  year, 
as  has  already  been  narrated,  this  reverse  was 
amply  avenged.  Not  only  so,  but  in  1308  the 
King  wreaked  signal  vengeance  upon  the  Mac- 
Dougalls  of  Lorn,  the  most  implacable  and  deter- 
mined of  his  foes.  Marching  towards  Argyllshire, 
he  totally  defeated  the  Lords  of  Lorn,  both  father 
and  son,  took  the  Castle  of  Dunstaffnage,  and  laid 
the  country  waste.  Alexander  of  Lorn  was  taken 
prisoner,  and  permitted  to  depart  with  a  safe- 
conduct  to  England,  where  he  is  said  to  have 
died  soon  after  in  poverty.^ 

On  Angus  Og  becoming  the  head  of  the  Clan 
Donald,  after  the  defeat  and  discomfiture  of  his 
brother  Alexander,  already  referred  to,  he  was 
able  to  cast  the  whole  influence  of  his  tribe  upon 
the  patriotic  side  of  the  struggle.  And  so,  when 
at  last  the  King's  toils  and  perils  were  crowned 
with  victory  on  the  field  of  Bannockburn,  Angus 
Og  and  his  Islesmen,  variously  estimated  at  from 
5000  to  10,000  men,  were  an  indispensable  factor 
in  determining  the  fortunes  of  the  day.  The 
incidents  of  that  ever  memorable  field  are  well- 
known  to  readers  of  Scottish  history,  and  need 
not  here  be  detailed,  save  so  far  as  they  relate 
to  Macdonald  of  the  Isles  and  his  followers. 
These    formed    a    corps    of    the    rear    or    reserve 

^  Clauranuld  History,  1819.        -  Buchamm,  Liber  VIII.,  34. 


division,  and  was  under  the  King's  own  immediate 
command  : — 

"  Sir  Angus  of  the  Isles  and  Bute  alswae 
And  of  the  plain  lands  he  had  mae 
Of  armed  men,  a  noble  rout, 
In  battle  stalward  was  and  stout. 
He  said  the  rear  guard  he  wad  maw 
And  even  before  him  should  gae 
The  vanguard,  and  on  either  hand 
The  other  battle  should  be  gaugand, 
Behind  ane  side  a  little  space ; 
And  the  King  that  behind  him  was 
Should  see  Avhere  there  was  maist  maister 
And  there  relieve  them  with  his  banner. "^ 

It  was  not  until  the  critical  moment  arrived  that 
the  men  of  the  Isles  were  summoned  to  the  fray. 
The  impetuous  Celtic  phalanx,  like  the  stag  hound 
held  by  the  leash,  burned  to  rush  upon  the  foe; 
but  their  native  ardour  must  needs  be  restrained 
until  the  King's  experienced  eye  saw  that  their 
action  should  prove  of  most  effect.  Despite  the 
enormous  disparity  of  numbers,  the  chivalry  of 
England  was  beginning  to  fall  into  most  perilous 
confusion  before  Bruce's  skilful  dispositions  and 
the  stubborn  courage  of  his  army.  It  was  then 
the  King  resolved  to  bring  up  his  reserves.  He 
directed  Angus  of  Isla  to  march  the  Islesmen  to 
the  assistance  of  Edward  Bruce,  who  was  engaged 
with  the  enemy  on  the  right,  and  addressed  him 
in  the  memorable  words  which  to  this  day  illustrate 
the  arms  of  the  Clanranald  Chiefs: — "  My  hope  is 
constant  in  thee."  The  stirring  lines  of  Scott  in 
"The  Lord  of  the  Isles"  worthily  interpret  the 
spirit  of  that  great  and  epoch-making  scene  : — 

^  Barbour's  Bruce. 

98  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

"  One  eft'ort  more  and  Scotland's  free  ! 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  my  trust  in  thee 

Is  firm  as  Ailsa  rock  ; 
Rush  on  with  Highland  sword  and  targe, 
I  with  my  Carrick  spearmen  charge ; 

Now  forward  to  the  shock  !" 

Angus  Og  and  his  men  exhibited  the  trpxlitional 
valour  of  their  race  on  that  eventful  day.  Like 
the  headlong  rush  of  their  native  torrents  as  they 
dash  and  foam  over  rock  and  precipice,  with  the 
shrill  note  of  the  martial  pipe  rousing  them  to 
the  onset,  and  with  the  wild  ringing  slogan  of 
the  hills  echoing  to  the  sky,  the  brave  Islesmen 
swept  on  to  meet  the  southern  foe  : — 

"  At  once  the  spears  were  forward  thrown, 
Against  the  sun  the  broadswords  shone  ; 
The  pibroch  lent  its  maddening  tone, 
And  loud  King  Robert's  voice  was  known— - 
Carrick,  press  on  !  they  fail,  they  fail ! 
Press  on,  brave  soiis  of  Innisgail, 
The  foe  is  fainting  fast  !" 

The  attack  of  the  Highlanders  and  the  men  of 
Carrick  at  that  critical  moment  settled  the  fortunes 
of  the  day,  and  the  victory  lay  A^  ith  the  "  fourth 
battle."  The  great  army  of  100,000  fled  before 
the  prudent  valour  of  the  Bruce  and  the  deter- 
mined bravery  of  the  Scots,  and  Bannockburn  was 

As  a  reward  for  the  undoubted  services  rendered 
by  MacDonald  of  the  Isles  and  his  Clan  at  Bannock- 
burn, they  always  thereafter  had  allotted  to  them,  at 
the  express  desire  of  the  King,  the  honourable  dis- 
tinction of  a  place  in  the  right  wing  of  the  royal 
army.  Bruce,  lioM'ever,  did  not  confine  his  patronage 
to  sentimental  favours  of  this  kind.  Out  of  gratitude 
for  the  yoeman  service  rendered  by  the  Island  chief 


ill  the  momentous  struggle,  he  bestowed  upon  Angus 
extensive  possessions  in  addition  to  those  which  he 
already  enjoyed.  Besides  Isla  and  Kintyre,  the 
islands  of  Mull,  Jura,  Coll  and  Tiree,  and  the 
districts  of  Glencoe  and  Morvern,  fell  to  his  lot. 
Lorn  was  bestowed  upon  Roderick,  son  of  Allan 
Macruari,  who,  not  being  considered  feudally  legiti- 
mate, received  from  his  sister  Christina,  his  father's 
legal  heiress,  a  large  share  in  her  inheritance  in 
Garmoran  and  the  North  Isles. ^  Lochaber,  which 
had  for  a  long  time  been  in  the  possession  of  the 
Comyns  —  the  determined  foes  of  Bruce  —  was 
forfeited,  and  divided  between  Angus  of  Isla  and 
Roderick  of  Garmoran ;  but  the  latter  having, 
about  1325,  entered  into  a  ti^easonable  league 
against  the  Crown — probably  the  Soulis  conspiracy — 
was  afterwards  deprived  of  that  territory,  and  it 
was  bestowed  upon  Angus  Og.  Bruce  was  no  doubt 
well  aware  of  the  impolicy  and  danger  to  the  author- 
ity of  the  Crown  involved  in  the  bestowal  of  such  wide 
possessions  upon  a  subject,  for  although  the  loyalty 
of  Angus  Og  himself  was  undoubted,  his  successors 
might  not  prove  so  friendly  to  the  Scottish  State. 
Indeed,  one  of  the  weighty  counsels  which  King 
Robert  left  behind  him  for  the  guidance  of  the 
kingdom  in  future  times,  w^as  not  to  let  the  lord- 
ship of  the  Hebridean  Isles  be  in  the  hands  of  any 
one  man.^  Still  the  services  of  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  were  too  great  to  be  overlooked,  and  the  only 
condition  made  to  neutralise  the  power  which  thus 
accrued  to  him  was  the  erection  of  Tarbert  Castle, 
in  Kintyre,  to  be  occupied  as  a  royal  stronghold. 

'■  Skene's  Highlandei'S  of  Scotland,  vol.  II.,  p,  50. 

2  Ne     quenquam     unum    Hebridarum     insularum    douiiuuni    faceieut. 
Buiihauan,  Lib.  VIII.,  57. 

100  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Angus  Og  married  a  daughter  of  Guy  or  Con- 
buidh  O'Cathan  or  O'Kane,  one  of  the  greatest 
barons  of  Ulster,  Lord  of  Limvady,  and  Master  of 
the  whole  County  of  Derry.^  The  O'Cathans  were 
origmally  a  branch  of  the  Cm  el  Eoghain,  descended 
from  Neil  of  the  nine  hostao^es,  Kinsj  of  Ireland. 
The  Lord  of  the  Isles  obtained  a  unique  dowry 
with  his  bride,  whose  name,  according  to  the  most 
generally  accepted  traditions,  was  Margaret,"  but 
accordinfff  to  another,  less  known  but  more  correct 
account,  was  said  to  be  Ann,  Aine,  or  Agnes. ^  The 
lady's  portion  took  the  form  of  140  men  out  of 
every  surname  in  O'Cathan's  territory,  and  the 
descendants  of  those  who  left  representatives  are 
known  to  this  day  in  the  Highlands  as  "  tochradh 
nighean  a'  Chathanaich" — "The  dowry  of  O'Cathan's 
daughter."  The  importation  of  so  many  stalwart 
Irishmen  shows  that  the  Highlands  were  somewhat 
sparsely  peopled,  and  that  there  were  no  appre- 
hensions of  a  congested  population  in  the  days  of 
Angus  Og.  It  was  still  very  much  the  time  when 
might  was  right — when  there  prevailed  : — 

"  The  good  old  way,  the  simple  plan, 
That  he  should  take  who  has  the  j)0\ver, 
And  he  should  keep  who  can," 

and  when  property  could  only  be  held  by  the  strong 
hand  of  him  who  could  muster  the  biggest  force  of 
armed  retainers.  In  these  circumstances,  the  arrival 
of  this  "tail"  of  youths  from  the  Emerald  Isle,  to 
help  the  security  of  the  lady's  new  domains,  was 
by  no  means  an  unwelcome  occurrence.  The  names 
of  some  of  these  immigrants  have  come  down  by 

'  Hugh  Macdonaia's  MS.  ;  1700  MS. 

*  Hugh  Maodoiiald'.s  M.S. 

^  ]  rOU  MS.     Hill's  Macdonalds  of  Aulrim,  p.  17.     KoU  Scot.,  vol.  L,  p.  534- 



tradition.  Two  families,  the  Miinroes,  so  called 
because  they  came  from  the  innermost  Roe  water 
in  the  County  of  Deny,  their  name  being  originally 
O'Millans,  and  the  Koses  of  Kilravock/  rose  to 
territorial  distinction  in  the  North  Highlands. 
The  other  names  presei-ved  by  Hugh  Macdonald 
are  the  Fearns,  Dingwalls,  Beatons,  Macphersons, 
Bulikes    of    CVxithness,    while    the    MS.    of    1700 


mentions,    in    addition   to    the    foregoing,    Dunbar, 
Maclinen,  and  the  MacGilleglasses. 

Angus  Og's  loyalty  to  Bruce  never  faltered.  It 
stands  in  marked  contrast  to  the  policy  of  the 
succeeding  Lords  of  the  Isles.  Loyalty  to  Scottish 
nationality  was,  however,  a  plant  of  slow  growth, 
even  amonof  the  m-eat  baronial  families  of  the  South. 

^  The  historian  of  the  Kilravock  family  iloes  not  dispute,  but,  on  the  con- 
trary, admits  that  the  family  came  directly  from  Ireland,  though  he  maintains 
that  England  was  the  nursery  of  the  race,  whence  they  maj'  have  emigrated  to 
Ireland.      Vide  Kilravock  Charters. 

102  THE    CLAN    DOXALD. 

These  were,  in  blood  and  social  ideas,  as  much  Anglo- 
Norman  as  Scottish,  and  swayed  from  one  side  to 
the  other  in  the  time  of  conflict  just  as  self-interest 
suggested.  The  case  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  was 
similar,  and,  if  Angus  Og  was  a  notable  exception  to 
his  line,  it  was  because  in  following  the  impulses  of 
friendship  for  the  great  and  chivalrous  deliverer  of 
Scotland,  he  departed  from  what  was  in  reality  the 
traditional  policy  of  the  Kings  of  Innse-Gall. 
Angus  Og  died  shortly  after  his  illustrious 
jDatron  (whose  death  occurred  in  1329)  in  his 
Castle  of  Finlaggan  in  Is  la,  and  was  buried  in 
the  tomb  of  his  ancestors  in  lona.  On  his  toml:)- 
stone  are  his  arms — a  ship  with  hoisted  sails,  a 
standard,  four  lions,  and  a  tree — and  the  following 
inscription  : — "  Hie  jacet  corpus  Angusii  filii  Domhii 
Anofusii  MacDomhnill  de  Ila." 


Legend . 

SR  Engus  De  Yle  Film  Domnaloi. 


LORD   OF   THE    ISLES,    OB.    1330. 

Hie  jacet  corpus  Angusii  fiUi  Domini 
Ang^sli  Mac  Domhnill  de  Ila. 

THE    GOOD    JOHN    OF   ISLA,  103 


THE  GOOD  JOHN  OF  ISLA.— 1330-13S6. 

John  of  Isla. — His  relation  to  Scottish  Parties. — Treaty  with 
Balliol. — Forfeiture. — Forfeiture  of  Eeginald  Macruari. — Par- 
don and  Reinstatement. — Assassination  of  Reginald  Mac- 
ruari.— John  and  the  Lands  of  Garmoran,  itc. — John  at  the 
Battle  of  Poictiers. — His  Captivity. — Ransom. — Connection 
with  the  National  Party. — Second  Marriage. — Constable  of 
Edinburgh  Castle.  -  High  Steward  of  Scotland. — Rebellion. — 
Treaty  of  Inverness. — Lordship  of  the  Lsles. — -John's 
Eminence. — Death.  —  Controversial  Questions. — The  Two 

John  of  Isla's  succession  to  the  extensive  territories 
left  by  his  father  was  ahuost  contemporaneous 
with  the  accession  of  David  II.,  then  a  mere  child, 
to  the  Scottish  throne.  The  woes  that  tend  to 
accompany  a  long  minority,  and  in  which  Scottish 
history  largely  abounds,  were  for  a  few  years 
mitigated  by  the  firm  and  sagacious  regency  of 
Randolph,  Earl  of  Moray  ;  but  when  his  strong  hand 
w^as  removed  from  the  helm  of  State,  Scotland  was 
again  plunged  into  anarchy  and  confusion.  Disaster 
fell  upon  the  Scottish  arms  at  Dupplin  ;  the  power 
of  the  executive  was  shattered  ;  English  influence 
began  to  make  itself  felt  once  more,  and  Edward 
Balliol  was  crowned  at  Scone  in  1332,  and  soon  after- 
wards did  homao;e  as  the  vassal  of  Edward  HI.  The 
cause  of  Scottish  independence,  though  thus  betrayed, 
was  not  by  any  means  crushed ;  the  spirits  of 
Wallace  and  Bruce  still  ruled  tlie  j^eople  "  from  their 
urrjs."     For  nine  years  the  patriotic  barons,  backed 

104  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

by  the  national  sentiment  animating  the  great  mass 
of  the  peasantry  and  middle  class,  were  successful  in 
maintaining  the  independence  and  integrity  of  the 
realm,  in  the  face  of  domestic  disloyalty  fomented 
by  the  ambitious  English  monarch. 

The  early  years  of  John  of  Isla's  occupancy  of  the 
Island  throne  were  passed  during  this  transition 
from  the  comparatively  settled  order  of  Bruce's  reign 
to  the  confusions  of  that  which  followed,  and  the 
history  of  the  lordship  of  the  Isles  during,  as  well  as 
subsequent  to,  that  period  derives  its  colouring  from 
the  varying  vicissitudes  of  general  Scottish  history. 
John  was  undoubtedly  one  of  the  most  distinguished 
of  his  distinguished  line.  The  circumstances  of  his 
time  were  not  such  as  to  shed  the  halo  of  martial 
glory  on  his  name.  He  did  not,  like  his  father  or 
son,  engage  in  a  great  or  epoch-making  battle.^  He 
did  not  share  in  the  glory  of  a  great  field  like 
Bannockburn,  nor  did  he  play  the  chief  part  in  an 
heroic  struggle  like  Harlaw.  But  peace  has  its 
victories  no  less  than  w^ar,  and  John's  long  life 
illustrated  the  exercise  of  far-sighted  and,  on  the 
whole,  successful  diplomacy.  He  was  animated  all 
along  by  the  dominant  idea  of  his  family,  the 
maintenance  of  the  honour  of  his  house,  and  of  the 
integrity  of  his  ancestral  domains.  Loyalty  to  the 
Scottish  crown  was  a  question  of  expediency  rather 
than  of  principle  with  the  descendant  of  a  line  of 
chiefs  who  regarded  themselves  as  hereditary  kings 
of  the  Scottish  Gael,  as  well  as  lords  of  Innse-Gall. 
Viewed  in  this  light,  John's  conduct  amid  the  stormy 
drama  of  Scottish  politics  during  the  fourteenth 
century  is  intelligible  enough.  Seeking  to  exercise 
independent    sway    within     the    Celtic   sphere,    he 

^  Unleas  we  except  Poictiers,  of  which  hereafter, 

THE    (400D    JOH^■    OF    ISLA.  105 

clearly  saw  that  English  influence  in  Scotland,  with 
its  natural  correlative  a  weak  Scottish  executive, 
would  serve  his  purpose  best.  This  undoubtedly 
was  his  chief  motive  in  espousing  the  cause  of  Baliol. 
But  his  attitude  of  hostility  to  the  patriotic  party 
was  still  further  strengthened  by  a  difference  with 
the  Regent  regarding  certain  of  the  lands  which  he 
had  inherited  from  his  father.  Randolph's  successor 
refused  to  confirm  him  in  these  possessions,  with  the 
result  that  when  Balliol  assumed  the  crown  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles  became  associated  with  his  party  as  that 
which  would  the  more  likely  establish  him  in  his 
just  and  lawful  rights.  Hence  it  came  to  pass  that 
on  the  12th  September,  1335,  John  entered  into  a 
treaty  of  alliance  with  Edward  Balliol,  in  which  he 
was  put  into  possession  of  the  lands  inherited  from 
his  father,  and  others.  This  treaty,  which  was  con- 
cluded at  Perth,  was  on  the  6th  October  of  the 
following  year  ratified  by  Edward  III.  at  Auckland, 
Balliol  acknowledging  the  English  King  as  his 
superior  and  Lord  Paramount.  Edward's  con- 
firmation of  the  treaty  to  which  Balliol  and  John 
of  Isla  Avere  parties  contains  the  tenour  of  the 
compact,  and  as  it  throws  an  interesting  light 
upon  our  subject,  the  substance  of  it  may  be  quoted 
here  : — 

"  The  King  to  whom,  itc.  We  have  examined  certain  letters  of 
indenture  drawn  up  between  the  magnificent  prince  Lord  Edward 
King  of  Scotland,  our  illustrious  and  most  dear  cousin,  and  John 
of  the  Isles,  in  the  following  terms  : — In  this  indenture,  made  at 
the  town  of  Perth  on  Tuesday,  12th  December,  1335,  between  the 
most  excellent  prince  Lord  Edward,  by  the  grace  of  God  the 
illustrious  King  of  Scots,  on  the  one  part,  and  John  of  the  Isles  on 
the  other  part,  it  is  certified  that  the  said  Lord  the  King  has 
granted,  in  so  far   as   in  him  lay,  to  the  foresaid  John  for  good 

106  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  praiseworthy  service  rendered  to  himself,  and  in  future  to  be 
rendered  by  bim  and  his  heirs, 

The  Island  of  Ysle  (Isla) 

The  land  of  Kentyre  (Kintyre) 

The  land  of  Knappedoll  (Knapdale) 

The  Island  of  Githc  (Gigha) 

Half  the  Island  of  Dure  (Jura) 

The  Island  of  Golwonche  (Colonsay) 

The  Island  of  Mulle 

The  Island  of  Sky 

The  Island  of  Lewethy  (Lewis) 

The  land  of  Kenalbadon  and  Ardinton  (Morvern  and 
to  be  held  I)}-  the  same  John  and  his  heirs  and  assignees.  The 
same  Lord  the  King  has  also  granted  to  the  same  John  the  ward- 
ship of  Lochaber  until  the  attainment  to  man's  estate  of  the  son 
and  heir  of  Lord  David  of  Strathbolgy  the  last  Earl  of  Athol. 
And  for  these  foresaid  concessions  the  foresaid  John  of  the  Isles 
binds  himself  and  his  lieirs  to  be  leal  aud  faithful  men  to  the  said 
Lord  the  King  and  liis  heirs  for  ever,  and  he  binds  himself  and  his 
heirs  to  pursue  all  his  foes  and  rebels  whatsoever,  on  what  days, 
in  what  places  and  ways  he  may  be  able  to  do  so.  And  in  security 
for  the  faithful  performance  of  alltliese  promises  the  oath  shall  be 
given  by  the  said  John  on  the  holy  eucharist,  the  cup  of  the  altar, 
and  the  missal.  Likewise  tlie  said  John  wishes  and  grants  that  if 
the  foresaid  Lord  the  King  should  desire  to  have  from  him  a 
hostage  or  hostages  for  greater  secnrity,  that  a  cousin  or  cousins 
of  his  own  under  age,  very  nearly  related  to  him,  may  be 
delivered  over  to  the  said  Lord  the  King  when  a  siiitablc  time 
has  come,  seeing  that  the  said  John  has  as  yet  neither  son  nor 
heir  lawfully  begotten  of  his  own  body.  Besides,  the  foresaid 
Lord  the  King  wishes  and  grants  that  at  whatever  time  he  may 
have  an  heir  of  his  own  body  legitimately  begotten  the  office  of 
godfather  to  his  heir  may  be  granted  to  the  foresaid  John. 

"  But  we  accept,  ratify,  approve,  and  confirm  the  whole  and 
each  of  the  contents  of  the  foresaid  letters  for  ourselves  and  our 
heirs  so  far  as  in  us  lies,  as  the  foresaid  letters  more  fully  testify."^ 

It  is  evident  that  John  liimself  was  present,  and 
paid  his  respects  to  King  Edward  when  these 
important    negotiations    were    taking    place.       The 

^   Roluli  Scolia3,  vol.  I.,  p.  463. 

THE   riOOD   JOHN    OF   ISLA.  107 

Scottish  records  of  the  time  indicate  that  on  the 
very  day  on  which  John's  League  with  Balhol  was 
confirmed  by  the  Enghsh  monarch  he  received  a  safe 
conduct  from  that  potentate.  Intimation  "was  made 
to  all  sheriffs,  bailies,  and  other  faithful  subjects 
that  John  and  his  retinue,  servants,  and  equipage, 
whether  staying  with  the  King,  on  their  way  to  see 
him,  or  on  their  return  home,  were  under  his  special 
protection  and  care.^  In  all  this  we  have  evidence 
of  the  value  placed  by  Balliol  and.  his  suzerain 
upon  the  power  and  resources  of  the  Island  Lord, 
and  his  adhesion  to  the  anti-Scottish  party.  Tliis 
alliance  with  Edward  III.  continued  for  several 
years,  gathering  rather  tlian  losing  strength,  and  in 
the  records  of  1337  we  find  frequent  traces  of 
friendly  intercourse  between  the  English  monarch 
and  the  Lord  of  the  Isles.  On  3rd  December  of 
that  year  John  received  a  safe  conduct  couched  in 
still  more  forcible  language  than  that  of  1335,  and 
the  most  extreme  j)ains  and  penalties  are  threatened 
against  such  as  would  cause  injury  or  molestation  to 
himself  or  his  followers  when  coming,  staying,  or 
departing  from  the  royal  presence.  This  is  followed 
on  the  day  immediately  succeeding  by  a  commission 
to  the  Earl  of  Salisbury  to  enter  into  a  league  with 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles.  On  the  same  day  a  letter  is 
sent  by  Edward  to  John  by  the  hands  of  this  same 
plenipotentiary,  abounding  in  the  friendliest,  the 
most  honeyed  phrases — ejnstola  hlandiloqua  it  is 
styled.  He  calls  him  his  dearest  friend,  and  offers 
him  the  best  safeguards  in  his  power,  whether  he 
comes  with  60  or  80  or  100  attendants  with  the  view^ 
of  drawing  closer  the  bonds  of  amity  and  concord 
between  them.-     The  relations  between  the  English 

1  Rotuli  ScoticC,  vol.  I.,  p.  464.  -  Ibideiu,  p.  olG. 

108  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

King  and  John,  of  which  we  have  evidence  in  these 
transactions,  seem  to  have  lasted  until  a  fresh  crisis 
arose  in  the  position  of  Scottish  parties.  Edward, 
recognising  the  power  and  capacity  of  the  Island 
lord,  seems  to  have  done  all  he  could  to  stimulate 
his  discontent,  secure  his  friendship,  and  establish 
his  connection  with  the  party  of  Balliol. 

After  a  few  years'  struggle,  the  patriotic  party 
was  successful  in  vindicating  the  independence  of 
Scotland,  and  the  Steward,  the  nephew  of  David 
Bruce,  having  been  appointed  Regent,  and  finding 
his  uncle's  cause  in  the  ascendant,  arranged  for  his 
return  from  France  to  assume  his  father's  sceptre  in 
1341.  Owing  to  the  attitude  of  John  of  Isla  during 
the  troublous  times  of  David  Bruce's  minorit}^  it 
miglit  naturally  be  expected  that  the  vengeance  of 
the  King  would,  on  the  overthrow  of  his  enemies 
and  his  accession  to  the  tlirone,  be  directed  against 
him.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  in  or  about  1343,  John 
was  nominally  forfeited  in  the  lands  of  Gigha, 
Isla,  Jura,  and  Colonsay,  all  of  which  were  granted 
by  the  King  to  Angus  Macian  of  Ardnamurchan,^  a 
kinsman  of  his  own,  and  the  head  of  a  house  that 
was  yet  to  play  a  not  unimportant  part  in  the 
history  of  the  Highlands.  Beginald  Macruari 
joined  with  John  of  Isla  in  offering  a  stout  and 
effective  resistance  to  the  royal  decree.  His  posses- 
sions seem  also  to  have  been  involved  in  the 
confiscations  of  the  time,  although  the  Macruari 
tenure  at  that  particular  period  is  not  altogether 
clear.  The  Island  Chiefs  were  not,  however, 
strong  believers  in  the  efficacy  of  parchments,  and 
seem  to  have  felt  none  the  worse  of  their  irregular 
relations  to  the  crown.     It  was  not  long  ere  the 

'  Charter  in  Haddington's  Collection. 

THE    GOOD    JOHN    OF    ISLA.  109 

exigencies  of  the  Scottish  State  wrought  in  favour 
of  the  Island  interests.  David  Bruce,  taking 
advantage  of  the  absence  of  Edward  III.  in  France, 
resolved  to  invade  England  in  1346.  Wishing  to 
bring  the  whole  military  force  of  his  kingdom  into 
action,  and  with  the  view  of  conciliating  all  whose 
hostility  might  be  feared,  he  pardoned  both  John 
of  Isla  and  his  kinsman,  Reginald  Macruari.  The 
whirligig  of  time  had  brought  about  its  revenges, 
and  David  Bruce  repeated  the  work  of  Balliol.  In 
1343 — before  the  invasion  of  England,  and  the 
very  year  of  his  forfeiture — he  confirmed  John 
in  the  lands  of  Durdoman  (Duror),  Glenchomyr 
(Glenco),  Morimare  (Morvern),  Geday  (Gigha), 
Ardinton  (Ardnamurchan),  Golwonche  (Colonsay), 
Mulle,  Kernoburgh,  and  Iselborgh  Castles,  with 
the  lands  pertaining  to  them  ;  Tirayd  (Tiree),  Yle 
(Isla),  Dure  (Jura),  Scarba,  Lewis,  and  Lochaber.^ 
It  will  be  seen  from  this  that  Kintyre,  Knapdale 
(South),  and  Skye,  which  formed  part  of  Balliol's 
grant  in  1335,  are  excepted,  these  lands  having 
reverted  to  their  former  owners.  To  Ranald  Mac- 
ruari ^  there  were  granted  the  Isles  of  Uist,  Barra, 
Eigg,  and  Rum,  and  the  lordship  of  Garmoran, 
which  included  the  districts  of  Moydart,  Arisaig, 
Morar,  and  Knoydart — all  of  which  formed  the 
ancient  patrimony  of  the  Macruari  family.^ 

On  the  eve  of  David  Bruce's  invasion  of  England, 
there  occurred  a  tragedy  which  resulted  in  a  con- 
siderable enlargement  of  the  power  and  possessions 
of  the  House  of  Isla.  Reginald  Macruari  met 
with  a  violent    death.       The   Scottish  barons  hav- 

^  Eobertaon's  Index,  p.  48-1. 

'  This  Ranald  is  referred  to  as  "  Ranald  the  White  "  in  the  genealogy  of 
the  1450  MS. 

^  RoV)ert8ou'ii  Index,  p.  48-3. 

110  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

ing  been  convoked  to  meet  at  Perth,  Reginald, 
obeying  the  summons,  and  accompanied  by  a 
considerable  body  of  men,  took  up  his  quarters 
in  the  monastery  of  Elcho,  a  few  miles  from  the 
ancient  capital.  Reginald  held  the  lands  of  Kintail 
from  the  Earl  of  Ross,  the  instrument  being  thus 
defined  : — "  Carta  Regnaldi  filii  Roderici  de  terris 
de  Kintale  in  Ergadia  Boreali  data  per  Dominum 
Ross."  ^  The  Charter  of  confirmation  for  the  same 
lands  is  thus  described  : — "  Carta  ejusdem  Regis 
confirmans  cartam  consessam  per  Wilhelmum 
Comitem  de  Ross  filium  et  heredem  quondam 
Hugonis  Comitis  de  Ross  Reginalde  filio  Roderici 
de  Insulis  decem  davatorum  terre  de  Kennetale 
in  Ergadia  Boaeali  data  apud  castrum  dicti  Comitis 
de  Urcharde,  4th  Julii  an  Dom  1342,  testibus 
(names  of  witnesses).  Carta  Regis  est  fine  data,"  ^ 
Mr  William  Mackay,  in  his  admirable  History  of 
Urquhart  and  Glenmoriston,  makes  reference  to  the 
circumstances  in  which  this  charter  was  bestowed. 
At  that  time  Glen-Urquhart  Castle  was  in  the 
keeping  of  Sir  Robert  Lauder  of  Quarrelwood,  on 
behalf  of  the  Scottish  Crown.     Mr  Mackay  says  : — 

"  Within  tlic  old  -wally  of  his  Castle,  Sir  Robert  Lauder  eiitei*- 
tained  right  royally.  Among  the  guests  who  were  met  together 
there  on  4th  July,  1342,  -were  William,  Earl  of  Ross;  Reginald, 
son  of  Roderick  of  the  Isles  ;  the  Bishop  of  Moray,  the  Bishop 
Ross,  Sir  James  de  Kerdale,  Sir  William  de  Mowbray,  Sir  Thomas 
de  Lichtoun,  Canon  of  Moray ;  John  de  Barclay,  Adam  de 
Urqiihart,  John  Yong  de  Dingwall,  '  and  many  others,  clergymen 

'  The  Charter  of  Reginald,  &011  of  ilwlerick,  for  the  lands  of  Kintail,  in 
Noi-th  Argyll,  given  by  the  Earl  of  Ross.     Robertson's  Index,  p.  48-2. 

^  The  Cliarter  of  the  same  King,  confirming  the  Charter  granted  by 
William,  Earl  of  Ross,  son  and  heir  of  the  late  Hugh,  Earl  of  Ross,  to 
Reginald,  son  of  Roderick  of  the  Isles,  for  the  ten  davochlands  of  Kintail, 
in  North  Argyll,  given  at  the  said  Earl's  Castle  of  Urquhart  on  the  4th  of 
July,  1342  A.u.     The  King's  Cliarter  is  given  at  the  end. 


and  laymen' — a  goodly  company  truly.  These  all  witnessed  a 
charter  by  the  Earl  to  Reginald  of  the  lands  of  Kintail,  as  a 
reward  for  his  services."^ 

A  bitter  feud  as  to  the  tenure  of  these  lands  seems 
to  have  arisen  between  the  superior  and  vassal,  and 
the  opportunity  of  wreaking  vengeance  upon  his  foe 
seemed  to  the  Earl  too  favourable  to  be  lost.  In 
the  middle  of  the  night  he  broke  into  the  monas- 
tery, surprised  the  occupants,  treacherously  and 
sacrilegiously  slew  Keginald  and  seven  of  his  men 
within  the  holy  building,  and  immediately  there- 
after betook  himself  to  his  northern  fastnesses.  It 
was  considered  a  bad  omen  by  many  at  the  time 
that  King  David's  campaign  should  have  been 
immediately  preceded  by  so  fell  a  deed.^ 

The  foregoing  incident  materially  affected  the 
fortunes  of  John  of  Isla.  In  1337,  or  shortly  there- 
after, he  had  married  his  third  cousin,  Euphemia 
Macruari,  sister  of  the  slaughtered  chief  In  terms 
of  the  Hoyal  gift  to  her  brother,  Reginald,  she 
succeeded  to  the  estates,  and  brought  them  over  to 
her  husband  in  1344.  Although  John's  right 
emerged  through  his  marriage,  he  had  also,  as  a 
male  heir  not  remotely  akin,  a  feasible  right  to  the 
inheritance.  In  this  way  he  had  a  double  claim  to 
Garmoran  and  the  Northern  Isles.  The  Scottish 
Government,  however,  did  not  regard  the  matter 
in  this  light.  They  considered  John  already  too 
powerful  a  subject  for  the  safety  of  the  realm,  and 
rightly  feared  that  the  vast  territories  to  which  he 
now  laid  claim  threatened  a  revival  of  the  ancient 
kingdom  of  the  Isles.  Consequently,  they  refused 
to  acknowledge  John  as  the  rightful  heir  of  the 
Macruaris,    or    to    give    him    legal    investiture    in 

1  p.  3.-. 

-  For  Wj'utouu  on  Ranald  Macruari'.s  death,  see  Appendix. 

112  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

their  possessions.  Whatever  ostensible  reason  tlie 
Government  may  have  advanced  for  their  action — 
and  these  we  shall  afterwards  consider- — the  motives 
whicli  really  animated  them  were  concern  for  the 
safety  of  the  State.  It  is  not  surprising  that  the 
proud  Chief  of  the  Clan  Donald  was  indignant  at 
the  attitude  of  the  Government,  and  felt  disposed 
again  to  espouse  the  fortunes  of  the  Balliol  party. 
In  1346,  the  year  of  Reginald  Macruari's  assassina- 
tion, the  fortunes  of  that  faction  seemed  once  more 
in  the  ascendant.  King  David  Bruce's  invasion  of 
England  opened  with  disaster.  At  the  battle  of 
Neville's  Cross  the  Scottish  army  was  defeated  with 
great  slaughter,  and  the  King  taken  a  prisoner  to 
England.  Yet  although  it  might  well  seem  that  a 
fatal  blow  had  been  struck  at  Scotland's  indepen- 
dence, and  Balliol's  position  been  re-es1jablished  by 
England's  success,  neither  of  these  results  ensued. 
Balliol  obtained  not  even  the  semblance  of  kingly 
authority  ;  and  the  Scottish  nobility  were  successful 
in  placing  the  Steward,  the  next  heir  to  the  throne, 
in  the  regency  of  the  kingdom.  In  1351,  Edward 
III.,  whose  attention  was  largely  taken  up  with  his 
French  wars,  concluded  a  truce  with  Scotland,  which 
he  renewed  from  time  to  time,  as  he  entertained 
prospects  of  replenishing  tiie  coffers  of  the  State  by 
a  large  ransom  for  the  royal  captive. 

In  the  circumstances  to  which  we  have  just 
referred,  the  friction  which  was  caused  between 
John  of  Isla  and  the  Government  in  connection 
with  the  estates  of  Garmoran  does  not  seem  to 
have  led  the  Island  Chief  into  aggressive  hostility. 
From  all  that  we  can  learn,  during  the  eleven  years 
of  David's  captivity  in  England,  John  was  left  in 
undisturbed  possession,  not  only  of  the  lands  con- 

THE    GOOD   JOHN    OF   ISLA.  113 

firmed  to  him  hj  the  royal  authority,  but  also  of 
tiie  Macruari  territories,  his  right  to  which  was  still 
unacknowleclo-ed.  Certain  of  the  lands  which  were 
granted  by  David  Bruce  to  John  in  1343,  namely, 
the  lands  of  Duror,  Jura,  and  Mull,  and  the  for- 
tresses of  Kerneburgh  and  Isel burgh,  of  which 
John  had  received  the  custody,  had  been  held  by 
John  of  Lome  as  the  vassal  of  John  of  Isla.  The 
privilege  of  holding  these  fortressees  had  been 
accompanied  by  certain  conditions.  One  of  these 
was  that  until  John  of  Lome  delivered  the  Castle 
of  Kerneburgh  to  John  of  Isla  he  should  give 
him  three  hostages,  namely,  a  lawful  son  of  Lachlan 
MacAlexander,  a  lawful  son  of  Ywar  MacLulli^  and  a 
lawful  son  of  John  MacMolmari,  or  of  another  good 
man  of  his  clan  ;  and  another  was  that  John  of 
Lome  should  never  give  the  keeping  of  the  castle  of 
Kerneburgh  to  a,ny  of  the  Clan  Fynwyne  (Mac- 
kinnon),  who,  at  that  time,  seem  to  have  had  a 
settlement  in  Mull.  These,  with  the  exception  of 
the  three  unciates  of  Tereyd  (Tiree),  next  to  Coll, 
were  all  resigned  to  John  of  Isla,  it  being  stipulated 
that  the  Steward  of  the  three  unciates  should  not 
make  a  domestic  establishment  (domesticatum)  or 
a  dwelling  (habitaculum)  on  those  lands  without 
leave  obtained  from  the  superior.  The  Island  of 
Coll  was  retained  by  John  of  Lome,  and,  in  the 
deed  recording  the  transaction,  was  confirmed  to 
himself  and  his  heirs  for  ever.  These  negotiations 
took  place  in  1354,  and  in  the  record  of  the  pro- 
ceedings we  find  John  of  Isla  described  by  the  title 
"  Lord  of  the  Isles." 

It  may  be  true,  as  Gregory  says,  that  there  is  no 
previous  record  of  this  particular  chief  of  the  Clan 
Cbolla    being    called   Dominus   Insularum    in   the 

114  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

annals  of  that  age.  It  is,  however,  a  most 
unwarrantable  inference  to  draw  from  that  fact,  as 
the  same  historian  does,  that  the  title  "  Lord  of  the 
Isles"  was  a  new  one  in  the  history  of  the  family. 
This  particular  question  we  propose  to  touch  upon 
more  fully  in  a  subsequent  chapter. 

Shortly  after  this  time  an  incident  occurred  in 
John's  career  which  shows  that  English  influence 
had  lost  its  hold  upon  him,  and  that  in  his  public 
conduct  he  had  allowed  himself  to  be  drawn  into 
the  full  tide  of  Scottish  policy.  In  1354-5,  just  as  a 
treaty  for  the  ransom  of  David  Bruce  was  on  the 
eve  of  being  ratified,  the  Scots  nobility  were  per- 
suaded by  the  potent  argument  of  forty  thousand 
moutons  of  French  gold  to  break  the  truce  with 
England.^  This  was  followed  by  a  series  of  hostilities 
both  in  Scotland  and  France,  in  both  which  lands 
the  able  and  ambitious  Edward  III.  still  sought  to 
obtain  supreme  dominion.  In  1356,  the  Black 
Prince  having  penetrated  far  into  the  interior  of 
France,  the  French  King  assembled  an  army  vastly 
superior  in  numbers,  and  determined  to  cat  off  his 
retreat.  A  number  of  Scottish  chiefs  and  nobles 
accompanied  him  to  the  field,  and,  among  others, 
John  of  Isla,^  with  a  powerful  body  of  Highlanders. 
With  all  his  numerical  advantages,  the  French  King 
was  unable  to  prevail  against  the  valour  of  the 
English  army.  In  the  famous  battle  of  Poictiers, 
fought  on  the  19th  September,  1356,  the  Scots 
contingent  sustained  great  losses,  and  the  Lord  of 
the  Isles  was  taken  prisoner.  From  that  date  to 
16th    December  of  the  following   year,   he  was   in 

1  Scott's  History  of  Scotland,  vol.  I ,  p.  201. 

^  On  the  31st  of  the  jpreceding  March,  Edward  III.  sought  to  bring 
John  of  Isla  over  to  his  interest,  and  a  commission  for  treating  with  him  was 
executed  ;  but  this  commission  was  rendered  nugatory  by  John's  refusal  to 
treat.     Rymer's  Foedera. 

THE    GOOD   JOHN    OF   LSLA,  115 

captivity,  the  greater  jjait  of  the  time  in  England. 
Once  more  John  obtains  from  the  Engh'sh  King  a 
safe  conduct  for  his  return  to  his  Island  home,  but 
it  is  notable  that  the  terms  of  the  document  are  less 
endearing  than  of  old.  Sheriffs  and  bailies  and 
other  faithful  ones,  however,  are  told  that  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles,  who  was  a  prisoner  of  the  Prince  of 
Wales  his  dear  son,  was  in  the  King's  safe  conduct 
going  to  Scotland,  accompanied  by  four  knights, 
with  the  view  of  providing  the  means  necessary  for 
his  ransom/ 

Two  years  after  this  we  find  John  of  Isla  taking 
a  prominent  part  in  promoting  the  treaty  for  the 
liberation  and  ransom  of  David  II.,  and  thus  still 
further  indicating  his  abandonment  of  the  Eng- 
lish alliance  and  his  assumption  of  a  friendly 
attitude  towards  the  Crown.  It  was  stipulated 
in  this  treaty  that,  for  the  more  sure  payment 
of  the  ransom  of  100,000  marks,  twenty  hostages 
were  to  be  sent  to  England,  and  that  three 
of  the  following  seven  were  always  to  be  of  the 
said  twenty,  viz.: — the  Steward  of  Scotland,  the 
Earls  of  March,  Marr,  Ross,  and  Sutherland,  the 
Lord  Douglas  and  Thomas  de  Murray  ;  that  in  the 
meantime,  during  the  whole  period  of  the  ten  years 
over  which  the  payments  were  spread,  an  inviolable 
truce  should  subsist,  in  which  truce  were  to  be 
included  Monsieur  Ediuanl  de  Balliol  and  Johan  des 
Isles. ^ 

Soon  after  the  return  of  David  Bruce  to  the 
Scottish  throne,  a  complete  revolution  took  place 
in  the  mutual  relations  of  political  parties.  The 
party  adhering  to  the  King  was  wont  to  be 
regarded   as  patriotic  and  national,  that  of  Balliol 

1  Rotuli  Scotifc,  vol.  I.,  p.  SV?.  -  Uobertson's  Index,  107-19. 

116  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

being  favourable  to  English  influence.  But  now 
David  Bruce  began  to  show  symptoms  that  his 
long  residence  in  England  had  enervated  his 
patriotism.  He  betokened  a  willingness  to  admit 
English  influence  into  the  affairs  of  the  realm, 
and  even  to  promote  the  nomination  of  an 
English  successor  to  the  throne  of  Scotland.  The 
consequence  was  that  the  Balliol  faction  became 
the  party  of  the  court,  while  the  national  party, 
with  the  Steward  at  its  head,  found  themselves 
in  the  cool  shades  of  opposition.  Yet  although 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles  found  himself,  for  the  first 
time,  in  a  position  in  which  antagonism  to  the 
Government  was  consistent  with  adherence  to  the 
jDarty  of  Scottish  independence  ;  and  although  his 
connection  with  this  party  was  further  cemented 
by  his  marriage  with  Lady  Margaret,  daughter  of 
the  Steward,  yet  we  do  not  find  that  he  assumed  a 
strenuous  attitude  in  opposition  to  the  policy  of  the 
King.  The  date  of  this  marriage,  in  the  absence  of 
definite  information,  it  is  difficult  to  state  with 
exactness,  but  it  must  have  taken  place  about,  and 
certainly  not  much  later  than,  David  Bruce's  return 
from  captivity. 

We  do  not  purpose  at  this  stage  to  discuss  the 
merits  of  this  union,  the  circumstances  of  which  the 
history  of  the  time  has  left,  to  a  large  extent,  in 
obscurity.  The  voice  of  tradition  is  unanimous  as 
to  the  fact  that,  in  order  to  carry  out  the  marriage, 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles  divorced  or  abandoned  his  first 
wife.  Amy  Macruari.  In  this  he  had  the  support 
and  advice  not  only  of  the  Steward,  but — according 
to  Hugh  Macdonald,  the  Sleat  historian — of  his 
council,  and,  pre-eminently,  Maclnnes  of  Ardgour. 
The   same  authority — who,   by  the  way,   describes 

THE   GOOD   JOHN   OF   ISLA.  117 

Amy  as  "a  ^ood  and  virtuous  gentlewoman" — 
throws  an  interesting  side-light  upon  the  pride  of 
the  great  Highland  Chief,  who  would  not  perform 
the  unwonted  act  of  obeisance — uncovering:  his  head 
in  the  royal  presence  on  the  occasion  of  his  marriage 
— but  ingeniously  evaded  the  courtesy  by  not  wearing 
a  head-dress  at  all,  Maclnnes's  untoward  inter- 
vention in  the  domestic  affairs  of  the  family  of  Isla 
was  neither  forgotten  nor  forgiven  by  Amy  or  her 


sons.  It  is  alleged  that  a  commission  was  given  to 
Donald,  son  of  Lauchlan  MacLean,  to  slay  Maclnnes 
with  his  five  sons,  and  this  having  been  done,  he 
obtained  possession  of  Ardgour,  which  his  posterity 
still  enjoy.  Amy  is  said  to  have  lived  for  a  number 
of  years  after  her  separation  from  John  of  Isla,  and 
to  have  built  Castle  Tirrim  in  Moidart,  and  Borve 
Castle  in  Benbecula,  as  well  as  places  of  worship,  of 
which  notice  shall  be  taken  hereafter/ 

^  Hugh  Macdouald's  MS.. 

118  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Although  John's  connection  with  the  family  of 
the  Steward  would  naturally,  as  we  have  seen, 
lead  him  to  espouse  the  policy  of  his  party,  yet 
his  past  conduct,  both  in  war  and  diplomacy, 
in  recent  years,  continued  to  secure  for  him  the 
favour  of  the  Crown.  He  enjoyed  certain  high 
ofBces  of  State,  his  tenure  of  which  does  not 
seem  to  have  hitherto  attracted  the  attention  of  the 
historian.  Such  was  the  confidence  that  seems  to 
have  been  reposed  in  him,  that,  in  or  shortly  before 
1360,  he  was  appointed  Constable  of  Edinburgh 
Castle,  a  responsible  and  ,exalted  military  position, 
which  reflected  much  credit  upon  the  character  and 
ability  of  the  Chief  of  the  Clan  Donald.^  This,  how- 
ever, was  not  the  only  function  which  John,  during 
these  years  of  loyalty,  discharged  under  the  Scottish 
Crown.  It  is,  indeed,  a  singular  circumstance  that, 
in  1364,  we  find  him  acting  in  the  highest  office 
which  it  was  possible  for  a  Scottish  subject  to  occupy, 
viz.,  that  of  Senescall,  or  High  Steward  of  the  King's 
Household,^  an  office  which  had  for  generations 
come  down  by  hereditary  descent  as  the  possession 
of  a  family  nearly  akin  to  the  throne.  The  history 
of  the  time  leaves  little  doubt  as  to  the  reasons  for 
which,  at  the  period  under  consideration,  John  of 
Isla,  rather  than  the  hereditary  holder  of  the 
position,  is  found  discharging  the  functions  of  High 
Steward  of  Scotland.  liobert,  the  High  Steward, 
had,  by  various  Acts  of  Settlement  passed  by  the 
Estates  of  Scotland,  been  called  to  the  Crown  as 
next  heir  to  his  uncle  David  Bruce,  in  default  of  the 
latter  leaving  heirs  of  his  body.  Queen  Joanna  died 
childless  in   1363,  and  early  in  the  following  year 

\llotuli  Scacarii  Eegum  Scotorum,  vol.  IL,  pp.  50-78. 
"^  Ibidem,  pp.  129,  134,  UO,  173. 


the  King,  having  contracted  a  violent  fancy  for  a 
beautiful  young  woman  named  Margaret  Logie — of 
comparatively  humble  origin — insisted,  contrary  to 
the  advice  of  his  Court,  on  bestowing  his  hand  upon 
her  in  marriage.  This  unequal  alliance  caused  an 
open  rupture  between  David  and  his  kinsman  the 
Steward,  whose  reversion  of  the  Crown  would 
certainly  be  disappointed  if  the  fair  Margaret  should 
bear  a  son.  Such  was  the  discord  that  arose  out 
of  this  episode  and  the  angry  feelings  to  which  it 
gave  rise,  that  the  Steward  and  his  son,  the  Wolf  of 
Badenoch,  were  thrown  into  prison,  where  they 
seem  to  have  been  detained  for  several  years.  The 
royal  resentment  does  not  seem,  however,  to  have 
extended  to  the  Steward's  son-in-law,  John  of  Isla, 
for  undoubtedly  he  exercised  the  functions  of 
Senescall  during  a  part,  at  least,  of  his  father-in- 
law's  imprisonment,  a  fact  which  seems  to  indicate 
that  he  must  have  been  a  special  favourite  with  the 
King,  and  kept  himself  free  from  the  contending 
factions  of  the  time. 

Two  years  after  John  of  Isla  first  comes  before  us 
as  Steward  of  Scotland,  he  appears  as  a  royal  envoy 
to  Flanders  to  transact  some  business  for  the  King.^ 
Again  the  history  of  the  age  helps  us  to  determine 
the  nature  of  the  negotiations  in  which  the  Lord  of 
the  Isles  was  engaged  during  his  visit  to  Flanders. 
The  payment  of  the  King's  ransom  was  one  of  the 
chief  obstacles  in  the  way  of  a  lasting  peace  between 
the  two  kingdoms,  and  to  secure  the  regular  pay- 
ment of  the  first  instalment  the  Scottish  Parliament 
had  made  great  sacrifices.  It  was  ordained  that  the 
wool  of  the  Kingdom,  apparently  its  most  productive 
export  at  that  time,  should  be  sold  to  the  King  at  a 

^  Rotuli  Scacarii  Regum  Scotorum,  vol.  II.,  p.  261. 

120  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

low  rate,  and  it  was  afterwards  disposed  of  under 
the  King's  instructions  to  merchants  in  Flanders, 
where  textile  industries  seem  at  that  early  time  to 
have  flourished,  and  the  surplus  produced  over  prime 
cost  was  applied  in  discharge  of  the  royal  ransom. 
John  of  Isla,  in  virtue  of  his  office  as  Senescall,  had 
the  management  of  the  royal  revenues,  and  his 
voyage  to  Flanders  in  1366,  accompanied  by  John 
Mercer,  who  was  probably  better  versed  than  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles  in  the  price  of  wool,  was  no  doubt 
undertaken  with  the  view  of  negotiating  with  the 
Flanders  merchants  as  to  the  value  to  be  placed 
upon  the  precious  commodity  which  was  to  yield  a 
King's  ransom. 

The  burdensome  exactions  which  were  thus 
necessary  for  completing  the  ransom  of  the  King 
were  felt  to  be  a  heavy  impost  by  a  country  natur- 
ally poor  and  lately  impoverished  l)y  a  series  of 
desolating  wars.  In  the  Highlands  especially  the 
taxation  was  found  to  be  oppressive,  and  John  of 
Isla,  so  recently  a  high  official  under  the  Scottish 
Crown,  is  found,  along  with  other  northern  barons, 
refusing  to  pay  the  national  taxation  or  attend  a 
meeting  of  the  Estates  of  the  realm. ^ 

Some  years  before  this  outbreak  of  disaffection, 
as  already  stated,  the  King  had  thrown  the  Steward 
into  prison  for  his  opposition  to  the  royal  policy, 
but  now  finding  himself  unable  to  cope  with  the 
forces  of  disorder,  he  gave  him  his  freedom,  in 
the  belief  that  he  would  lend  his  influence 
successfully  to  the  vindication  of  the  authority 
of  the  Crown.  The  Steward  undertook  a  task 
dictated  alike  by  policy  and  patriotism.  His 
son-in-law,  John  of  Isla,  was  the  most  difficult  to 
reduce  to  subjection.      There   was  peace,  however, 

1  Acts  of  Scottish  Parliament.,  vol.  XII.,  p.  503,  June  12,  1368. 

THE    GOOD   JOHN    OF   ISLA.  121 

between  Scotland  and  England  ;  John  of  Isla  had 
no  foreign  ally  to  whom  to  turn,  and  so  David  Bruce 
was  able  to  bring  all  his  resources  to  bear  upon  the 
Island  potentate.  At  last,  after  years  of  open  and 
successful  defiance,  the  Steward  prevailed  upon  the 
haughty  and  turbulent  chief  to  meet  the  King  at 
Inve^rness,  when  the  following  instrument  of  allegi- 
ance was  finally  drawn  up  in  1369  : — 

"  To  all  who  may  see  the  present  letters  : — John  de  Yle,  Lord 
of  the  Isles,  wishes  salvation  in  the  Saviour  of  ail.  Since  my  most 
serene  prince  and  master,  the  revered  lord  David,  by  the  Grace  of 
God,  illastrious  King  of  Scots,  has  been  stirred  up  against  my 
person  because  of  certain  faults  committed  by  me,  for  which 
reason,  coming  humbly  to  the  presence  of  my  said  lord,  at  the 
Town  of  Inverness,  on  the  15th  day  of  the  month  of  November,  in 
the  year  of  grace  1369,  in  the  presence  of  the  prelates,  and  of 
very  many  of  the  nobles  of  his  kingdom,  I  offered  and  submitted 
myself  to  the  pleasure  and  favour  of  my  said  master,  by  sup- 
pliantly  entreating  for  favour  and  for  the  remission  of  my  late 
faults,  and  since  my  said  lord,  at  the  instance  of  his  comicil,  has 
graciously  admitted  me  to  his  goodwill  and  favour,  granting 
besides  that  I  may  remain  in  (all)  my  possessions  whatsoever  and 
not  be  removed,  except  according  to  the  process  and  demand  of 
law  :  Let  it  be  clearly  patent  to  you  all,  by  the  tenor  of  thesa 
presents,  that  I,  John  de  Yle,  foresaid,  promise  and  covenant,  in 
good  faith,  that  I  shall  give  and  make  reparation  to  all  good  men 
of  this  kingdom  whatsover,  for  such  injuries,  losses,  and  troubles 
as  have  been  wrought  by  me,  my  sons,  or  others  whose  names  are 
more  fully  set  forth  in  the  royal  letters  of  remission  granted  to 
me,  and  to  whomsoever  of  the  kingdom  as  are  faithful  I  shall 
thus  far  make  the  satisfaction  concluded  for,  and  I  shall  justly 
note  purchased  lands  and  superiorities,  and  I  shall  govern  them 
according  to  my  ability  ;  I  shall  promptly  cause  my  sons  and  my 
subjects,  and  others  my  adherents,  to  be  in  peaceable  subjection, 
and  that  due  justice  shall  be  done  to  our  lord  the  King,  and  to 
the  laws  and  customs  of  his  kingdom,  and  that  they  shall  be 
obedient  to,  and  shall  appear  before  the  justiciars,  sheriffs, 
coroners,  and  other  royal  servants  in  each  sheriflfdom,  even  better 
and  more  obediently  than  in  the  time  of  Robert  of  good  memory, 
the  predecessor  of  my  lord  the  King,  and  as  the  inhabitants  of 

122  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  said  lands  and  superiorities  have  been  accustomed  to  do. 
They  shall  answer,  both  promptly  and  dutifully,  to  the  royal 
servants  what  is  imposed  regarding  contributions  and  other 
burdens  and  services  due,  and  also  for  the  time  past,  and  in  the 
event  that  within  the  said  lands  or  superiorities  any  person  or 
persons  shall  offend  against  the  King,  or  one  or  more  of  his  faith- 
ful servants,  and  if  he  or  they  shall  despise  to  obey  the  law,  or  if 
he  or  they  shall  be  unwilling  to  obey  in  the  premises,  and  in  any 
one  of  the  premises,  I  shall  immediately,  entirely  laying  aside 
stratagem  and  deceit,  pursue  that  person  or  those  persons  as 
enemies,  and  as  rebels  of  the  King  and  kingdom,  with  all  my 
ability,  until  he  or  they  shall  be  expelled  from  the  limits  of  the 
lands  and  superiorities,  or  I  shall  make  him  or  them  obey  the 
common  law  :  And  for  performing,  implementing,  and  faithfully 
observing  these  things,  all  and  each,  I  personally  have  taken  the 
oath  in  presence  of  the  foresaid  prelates  and  nobles,  and  besides  I 
have  given  and  surrendered  the  under-written  hostages,  viz., 
Donald,  my  son,  begotten  of  the  daughter  of  the  Lord  Seneschal 
of  Scotland,  Angus,  son  of  my  late  son  John,  and  one  Donald, 
another  and  natui-al  son  of  mine,  whom,  because  at  the  time  of 
the  completion  of  this  present  deed  I  have  not  at  present  ready 
and  prepared,  I  sliall  cause  them  to  go  into,  or  to  be  given  up  at 
the  Castle  of  Dumbarton,  at  the  feast  of  our  Lord's  birth  now  next 
to  come,  if  I  shall  be  able  otherwise  on  this  side,  or  at  the  feast  of 
the  Purification  of  the  Blessed  Virgin  (or  Candlemas,  2d  February) 
next  following  thereafter,  under  pain  of  the  breach  of  the  oath 
given,  and  under  pain  of  the  loss  of  all  things  which,  with  regard 
to  the  lord  our  King,  I  shall  be  liable  to  lose,  in  whatever  manner. 
And  for  securing  the  entrance  of  these  hostages  as  promised,  I 
have  found  my  Lord  Seneschal  of  Scotland,  Earl  of  Strathern, 
security,  whose  seal  for  the  purpose  of  the  present  security,  and 
also  for  the  greater  evidence  of  the  matter  is  appended,  along 
with  my  own  proper  seal,  to  these  presents  in  testimony  of  the 
premises.     Acted  and  given,  year,  day,  and  place  foresaid." 

Two  years  after  the  Treaty  of  Inverness  was 
ratified,  David  II.  died  and  Robert  II.  ascended  the 
throne.^  Owing  to  his  close  connection  by  marriage 
with  the  reigning  family,  the  subsequent  relations 
of  the   Lord  of  the  Isles  to  the   Court  were  of  a 

^  In  the  list  of  names  oi  persons  who  toi.k  oath  of  homage  and  fealty  to 
Robert  II.  on  the  day  after  coronation  is  that  of  Johannes  de  Lyle. 


friendly  nature,  and  before  his  father-in-law  was 
long  upon  the  throne  he  was  confirmed  in  possession 
of  a  domain  which  might  well  be  called  princely. 
It  may  be  stated,  generally,  that  the  greater  part  of 
the  territories  that  first  belonged  in  their  integrity 
to  Somerlecl,  but  Avere  afterw^ards  divided  among  the 
houses  of  Isla,  Bute,  and  Lome,  were  now  con- 
solidated under  one  powerful  family.  One  of  the 
first  acts  of  King  Kobert  TL,  on  assuming  royal 
sway,  was  to  confirm  his  "  beloved  son,  John  of 
Isla,"  in  the  300  merklands,  once  the  property  of 
Allan,  the  son  of  Roderick,  namely,  the  lands  of 
Moidart,  Arisaig,  Morar,  Knoydart,  being  in  the 
lordship  of  Garmoran  ;  also  the  Islands  of  Uist, 
Barra,  Bum  and  Eigg,  and  Harris,  being  part  of 
Lewis.  This  deed  was  executed  at  Scone,  during 
the  session  of  Parliament,  on  the  9th  March,  1371-2. 
According  to  Skene  and  others  who  have  followed 
him  as  an  authority  incapable  of  erring,  this  was  the 
first  time  John  of  Isla  had  received  feudal  investi- 
ture of  the  patrimony  of  the  Macruaris.  As  a 
matter  of  fact,  however,  we  find  that  on  4th  July, 
1363 — the  time  of  John's  enjoyment  of  high  court 
favour  and  ofiice — David  II.  bestows  upon  him  a 
Charter  of  Confirmation  under  the  Great  Seal 
for  all  lands  possessed  by  him,  by  whomsoever 
these  had  been  granted,  a  deed  intended  to  make 
good  all  previous  gifts  granted  by  Balliol  or  by 
David,  or  inherited  through  his  first  wife.^  In 
the  same  year  there  is  a  grant  of  these  lands 
made  by  John  to  his  son  Beginald,  born  of  the 
first  marriage,  with  the  addition  that  the  castles 
of  Benbecula  and  Island  Tirrim,  and  also  the  lands 
of  Sunart,  Letter-lochletter,  Ardgour,  Hawlaste,  and 
sixty  merklands  in  Lochaber,  namely,  Kilmald^  and 

^  Kegister  of  the  Great  Seal.  -  Probably  Kilinallie. 

124  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

Locharkaig,  are  also  included.^  This  grant  Is  accom- 
panied by  a  royal  confirmation.  It  is  remarkable 
that  neither  John's  first  wife,  through  whom  he 
received  the  lands,  nor  her  brother  Reginald,  from 
whom  she  inherited  them,  receive  any  notice  in  the 
charter.  This  gift  was  further  confirmed  by 
Kobert  III.  in  1392.^  One  point  only  calls  for 
remark  in  the  disposition  of  lands  provided  for  in 
this  instrument ;  but  it  is  of  great  importance,  in 
view  of  future  discussions,  namely,  that  these  lands 
of  Garmoran  and  the  North  Isles  and  others  were  to 
be  held  by  Reginald  and  his  heirs  from  John  and  his 
heirs.  Some  years  later,  in  1376,  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  received  three  charters  for  the  remainder  of 
his  lands,  in  which  Colonsay,  Lochaber,  Kintyre,  and 
Knapdale,  and  other  lands  not  previously  disposed 
of,  were  granted  by  the  King  to  himself,  "  John 
del  He,"  and  his  heirs  by  his  wife  Margaret,  the 
daughter  of  the  King.  The  territories  of  John 
of  Isla  were,  in  this  manner,  divided  into  two 
large  divisions  or  lordships — the  first,  in  the  order 
of  time,  being  the  lordship  of  Garmoran  and  the 
Northern  Isles,  possessed  by  Reginald  as  the  vassal 
of  John  and  of  John's  feudal  heirs — the  other  being 
the  lordship  of  the  Isles  proper,  with  John  himself 
as  crown  vassal,  with  a  special  destination  of  the 
lands  in  question  in  favour  of  the  second  family. 

Some  idea  of  the  extent  of  this  territory  may  be 
gained  by  enumerating  the  different  districts  in  the 
following  order : — 

Mainland  Tere,itortes. 
The  Lordship  of  Lochaber,  including  Kilmallie  and  Kilmonivaig. 
The  Lordship  of  Garmoran,  including  Moydart,   Arisaig,  Morar, 

and  Knoydarfc. 
Also  Morvern,  Knapdale,  Duror,  Kintyre,  and  Glenco. 

^  For  Charters  see  Appendix.         ^  Orig.  Par.  Scot. 


Island  Territories. 
Isla,  Gigha,  Colonsay.  Lewis,  Harris. 

Jura  and  Scarba.  N.  Uist,  Benbecula. 

Tiree,  Eigg,  Rum.  S.  Uist  and  Barra. 

It  is  obvious  that  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  must  have 
possessed  conspicuous  ability,  force  of  character  and 
prudence,  to  have  been  able  so  to  build  up  the  power 
and  prestige  of  his  race.  The  circumstances  of  the 
time,  no  doubt,  were  favourable  to  the  aggrandise- 
ment of  the  Family  of  Isla.  The  successive 
transformations  in  Scottish  politics ;  the  continual 
struggle  against  English  domination,  and  the 
frequent  weakness  of  the  executive  power,  rendered 
the  formation  of  a  semi -independent  principality 
possible  of  achievement.  But  although  the  condi- 
tions were  auspicious  in  view  of  that  end,  only  a 
man  of  great  foresight  and  commanding  personality 
could  have  seized  the  golden  opportunity  for 
promoting  the  fortunes  of  his  house.  That  he 
became  a  man  of  the  first  consequence  in  Scottish 
public  life— although  his  loyalty  was  not  above 
suspicion — has  already  been  fully  set  forth,  but  it 
may  be  added  in  proof  of  this  that,  when  the 
abortive  Treaty  of  Newcastle  for  David's  liberation 
was  formulated  in  1354,  John  of  Isla  was  one  of  the 
four  barons  named  as  securities  for  its  observance, 
the  others  being  the  Steward  of  Scotland,  the 
Lord  of  Douglas,  and  Thomas  of  Moray. 

After  1372  there  is  little  left  to  record  regardino- 
John  of  Isla  or  his  fortunes,  until  his  death  in  1386. 
Here,  as  elsewhere,  the  dulness  of  the  annals 
betokened  the  happiness  born  of  prosperity.  The 
Lord  of  the  Isles  breathed  his  last  in  the  Castle 
of  Ardthornish  at  an  advanced  age,  and  his  dust 
was    laid   in    the    Church    of  Gran,   in    Hy,  where 

126  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  a>sbes  of  his  father,  Angus  Og,  reposed.  His 
obsequies  ^vel•e  observed  with  great  pomp  and 
splendour  by  the  Churchmen  of  the  Isles,  among 
whom  he  was  known  as  the  "Good  John  of 
Isla,"  on  account  of  a  miuiificence  to  their  order, 
in  which  he  more  than  vied  with  the  pious  liberality 
of  his  fathers. 

From  Photo,  by  Messrs  G.  W.  Wilson  &  Co.,  Aberdeen. 


We  have  purposely  refrained  from  disturbing  the 
continuity  of  our  narrative  by  dwelling  upon  certain 
controversial  episodes  in  John's  career  which  have 
an  important  bearing  upon  the  future  history  of 
his  family.  These  cjuestions  are  in  themselves  so 
important  that  there  is  an  obvious  advantage  in 
dealing  with  them  in  the  closing  part  of  the  pre- 
sent chapter,  where  they  can  be  treated  wdth  some 
measure  of  thoroughness  rather  than  touched  upon 
as  mere  passing  details. 

The  two  marriages  of  John  of  Isla  open  up  far- 
reaching  questions  of  genealogical  interest,  which  it 

THE    G#OD    JOHN    OF    ISLA.  127 

is  not  our  purpose  in  this  volume  to  go  into  with 
detailed  exhaustiveness.  We  cannot,  however, 
avoid  disposing,  if  possible,  of  one  question  upon 
which  future  genealogical  discussions  must  hinge, 
and  that  is  the  regularity,  or  the  opposite,  of 
John's  union  with  Euphemia  Macruari,  the  heiress 
of  Garmoran, 

Undoubtedly  there  has  been  a  tradition  which 
seems  to  have  acquired  a  certain  amount  of  weight, 
that  this  was  one  of  those  irregular  unions  known 
as  handfasting  which  seem  to  have  prevailed  to  some 
extent  the  ancient  Highlanders,  and  wliicli, 
though  recognised  in  the  law  of  Celtic  succession, 
were  inegular  in  the  eye  of  the  feudal  law.  We 
are  not,  of  course,  surprised  to  find  the  historian  of 
Sleat,  Hugh  Macdonald,  stating,  not  that  John 
married,  but  that  he  lived  for  ten  years^  with  the 
mother  of  the  first  family,  seeing  that  this  seanachie 
is  always  ready  to  cast  doubts  upon  the  legitimacy 
of  heads  of  branches  of  the  clan  whose  claims  to 
seniority  might  otherwise  be  preferred  to  those  of 
the  Chiefs  of  Sleat.  We  also  place  little  reliance 
upon  the  conclusions  of  an  ex  parte  document 
compiled  in  the  same  interest,  in  which — very 
unnecessarily  for  proof  of  the  main  contention — 
the  legality  of  the  marriage  in  question  is  scornfully 
put  out  of  court. ^  It  is,  however,  somewhat  sur- 
prising to  find  the  Clanranald  historian  make  an 
admission  so  damaging  to  the  legitimacy  of  the  line 
from  which  the  Clanranald  Chiefs  were  descended 
as  that  John  of  Isla  "  did  not  marry  the  mother  of 
these  men  (his  sons  by  Euphemia  Macruari)  from 
the  altar. "^     It  is  equally  strange  that  the  MS.  of 

^  Collectanea  de  rebus  Albanicis. 

^  Abstract  vic^v  of  the  claims  to  tlio  rcprcscntalioii  of  tlio  Lords  of  tlio 
Isles  and  Earls  of  Ros.s. 

^  Eeliquia)  CelticDSj  vol.  II.,  p.  Ia9. 

128  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

1700,  written  also  in  the  Clanranald  interest,  should, 
while  maintaining  the  legality  of  the  marriage,  do  so 
with  reasons  so  feeble  and  inconclusive/ 

How  such  a  misconception  of  the  true  facts  of 
the  case  should  have  arisen  can  only  be  accounted 
for  in  one  way.  The  Scottish  Government,  when 
refusing  to  ackno\vledge  John's  right  to  the  lands 
of  Ranald  Macruari,  supported  the  refusal  by  the 
allegation  that  his  marriage  with  Amy  was 
irresrular,  and  could  not  be  reconciled  with  the 
principles  of  feudal  tenure.  This  contention,  how- 
ever unfounded,  and  though  a  mere  pretext  for 
curbing  a  powerful  subject,  was  quite  sufficient, 
coming  as  it  did  from  such  high  quarters,  to  impress 
the  popular  mind  and  create  a  tradition  which 
appears  to  have  received  a  considerable  amount  of 

That  John's  marriage  with  Amy  was  a  perfectly 
legal  and  regular  union  is  a  fact  amply  attested. 
That  a  lady  in  Amy's  position,  belonging  to  a 
noble  Highland  family,  should  have  contracted  an 
irregular  alliance  of  the  nature  suggested  is  in  the 
highest  degree  improbable.  But  apart  from  this 
consideration,  which  is  not  without  its  own  weight, 
two  undoubted  facts  may  be  adduced  in  proof 
First  of  all,  there  is  a  dispensation  granted  by  Pope 
Benedict  XH.  to  John  and  Amy  permitting  them 
to  enter  the  state  of  matrimony.  According  to  the 
canon  law  of  the  Church  of  Home,  which  was  then 
very  rigid,  the  parties,  as  third  cousins,  were  Avithin 
the  forbidden  degrees  of  consanguinity,  and  this 
barrier  to  their  union  could  only  be  removed  by  the 
grace  of  the  Church's  earthly  head.  And  it  may 
be  stated,  in  passing,  that  this  very  dispensation, 

^i^See  Appendix, 

THE   GOOD   JOHN   OF   ISLA.  129 

implying  as  it  did  some  sort  of  irregularity,  may 
have  been  one  ground  upon  which  the  Government 
based  their  declinature  to  confirm  John  in  the  Mac- 
ruari  lands,  and  thus  propagated  the  tradition  to 
which  we  have  referred. 

But  there  is  more  than  this.  In  the  Treaty  of 
Inverness  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in  enumerating  the 
hostages  pledged  for  the  performance  of  his  sworn 
allegiance,  draws  a  distinction  between  his  "  late 
son  John  and  one  Donald,  another  and  natural 
son  of  mine."^  This  John  was  the  eldest  son  of 
Amy,  and  is  spoken  of  in  the  same  terms  as  Donald 
his  son  by  the  daughter  of  the  Steward  of  Scotland. 
There  seems,  therefore,  no  ground  for  doubting — and 
in  this  the  standard  authorities  are  at  one — that  the 
first  marriage  of  John  of  Isla  was  a  perfectly  valid 
and  legal  union.  In  point  of  fact,  John's  marriage 
with  the  daughter  of  the  Steward  is  exposed  to  far 
more  objections,  both  from  a  legal  and  moral  point 
of  view,  than  his  first  marriage.  Assuming,  as  the 
evidence  compels  us  to  do,  that  the  first  marriage 
was  regular,  and  there  being  nothing  to  shew  that 
Amy  was  guilty  of  any  conduct  unbecoming  a  true 
and  faithful  wife,  the  competency  of  a  divorce  and 
the  power  to  contract  a  second  marriage  in  her  life- 
time is  subject  to  very  grave  doubts.  This  aspect 
of  the  question,  however,  we  are  not  disposed,  at 
present,  to  discuss.  Lookincj  at  the  transaction  in 
the  most  favourable  point  of  view,  the  alliance  with 
the  daughter  of  the  future  King  of  Scotland  was 
animated  by  motives  of  worldly  policy  rather  than 
of  lofty  principle,  was  a  cruel  slight  upon  a  pure  and 
honourable  lady,  and  is  an  indelible  stain  upon  the 
domestic  life  of  "  The  Good  John  of  Isla." 

1  Seep.  122. 

130  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 



The  Succession  of  Donald  to  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles. — Reginald 
and  the  Crown  Charter  of  1373. — The  position  of  Godfrey. — 
John  Mor  Tainistear  and  Alasdair  Carrach. — Donald's  policy. — 
Celtic  supremacy. — Alliance  with  England. — Richard  II.  at 
Finlaggan  in  Isla. — Rebellion  of  Alasdair  Carrach. — The 
Eai'ldom  of  Ross. — The  Lord  of  the  Isles  invades  the  Earl- 
dom.— Defeat  of  Angus  Dubh  Mackay  at  Dingwall. — Donald 
takes  possession  of  Inverness. — ^March  to  Aberdeen. — The 
Battle  of  Harlaw. — Defeat  of  Mar  and  his  Lowlanders. — 
Donald  retires  to  the  Isles. — The  Regent  Albany  with  an 
army  invades  Ross,  and  takes  possession  of  the  Earldom. — 
Albany's  Campaigns  in  Argyle. — John  of  Fordoun's  Treaty 
of  Portgilp. — The  Rebellion  of  John  Mor. — Character  and 
death  of  the  Hero  of  Harlaw, 

Donald,  the  eldest  son  of  the  second  marriage  of 
John  of  Isla,  succeeded  his  father  as  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  to  the  exclusion  of  the  eldest  survivino-  son  of 
the  first  marriage.  This  was  not  the  first  instance 
in  the  genealogy  of  the  Clan  Cholla  in  which  the 
line  of  succession  was  diverted  from  the  eldest  son. 
We  have  seen  how  the  sons  of  Alexander,  the  eldest 
son  of  Angus  Mor,  were  excluded  from  the  succession, 
owing  to  the  determined  opposition  of  their  father 
to  the  interests  of  Bruce.  It  must  also  be  borne  in 
mind  that  the  line  of  succession  in  the  family  of  the 
Isles,  like  that  of  every  other  Highland  family,  was 
sometimes  regulated  more  by  the  Celtic  law  of 
tanistry  than  by  the  feudal  law  of  primogeniture. 
The   title   of  Lord   of    the    Isles — an   assertion   of 

DONALD    OF    HARLAW.  131 

independence — was  itself  a  Celtic  dignity,  assumed 
by  the  heads  of  this  family,  and  not  conferred  by  the 
Scottish  monarch.  It  had  not  been  assumed  for  the 
first  time  by  John,  as  affirmed  by  Gregory  and 
echoed  by  others,  who  call  that  chief  the  first  Lord 
of  the  Isles.  On  the  contrary,  we  find  in  charters 
granted  by  several  heads  of  the  family  before  the 
time  of  John  the  dignity  of  Lord  of  the  Isles 
assumed  and,  in  several  State  documents,  acknow- 
ledged.^ Somerled  himself,  the  modern  founder  of 
the  family,  is  referred  to  again  and  again  as  both 
Dominiis  and  Rex  Insularum,  and  Reginald  his 
son,  as  well  as  Donald  his  grandson,  are  referred  to 
as  Lords  of  Innsegall,  or  of  the  Isles.  Gregory 
affirms  that  John,  on  his  marriage  with  the  Mac- 
ruari  heiress,  and  adding  her  patrimony  to  his  already 
extensive  territories,  assumed  the  title  of  Lord  of 
the  Isles.  But  Somerled,  the  ancestor  of  John, 
possessed  a  much  wider  and  more  extensive  terri- 
tory, both  in  the  Isles  and  on  the  mainland,  than 
any  of  his  successors.  It  seems,  therefore,  clear 
that  if  John  assumed  this  title  for  the  extent  of  his 
possessions  he  could  not  have  been  the  first  to  do  so 
in  the  famil}''  of  the  Isles.  In  a  very  ancient  MS. 
quoted  by  the  Seanachies,  Gillebride,  the  father  of 
Somerled,  is  referred  to  as  Righ  Eilein  Sidir,  or 
King  of  the  Isles  ;  while  another  progenitor  of  the 
family  is  styled  Toiseach  of  the  Isles.  Even  as  far 
back  as  the  8th  century,  we  find  reference  in  an 
old  Scots  Chronicle  to  the  "  Chief  of  the  Isles,"  and 
it  was  only  towards  the  middle  or  end  of  the  12th 
century,  when  feudal  institutions  had  been  for  some 
time  established  in  the  country,  and  Latin  Christi- 
anity had  taken  root  in  the  soil,  that  the  title  of 

^  See  Chartulary  of  Paislej^.     Registrr  of  Great  Seal,  January  1st,  1507. 

132  THE    CLAN    DONALD, 

Dominus  Insularum  first  appears  on  the  page    of 

But  the  designation  which  the  family  of  the  Isles 
seems  to  have  preferred  to  all  others  was  de  He,  or 
of  Isla,  to  which  successive  chiefs,  from  Reginald, 
the  son  of  Somerlecl,  to  John,  the  last  Lord,  clung 
with  the  fondness  of  a  first  love.  We  might  infer 
from  this  alone,  e^^en  if  there  were  not  other  and 
stronger  indications  pointing  in  the  same  direction, 
that  from  the  very  beginning  of  the  history  of  Clan 
Cholla  as  a  family  in  Argyle,  green,  grassy  Isla,  the 
Queen  of  the  Hebrides,  was  the  home  of  the  race. 

We  are  far  from  affirming  that  the  old  Celtic  lav^^ 
of  tanistry  alone,  or  even  principally,  operated  in  the 
accession  of  Donald  to  the  lordship  of  the  Isles  and 
chiefship  of  the  Clan  Donald.  While  no  doubt  it 
must  have  been  an  important  factor  in  disarming 
opposition  amongst  a  people  thoroughly  Celtic  and, 
to  a  large  extent,  influenced  by  Celtic  laws  and 
usages,  there  were  other  and  more  powerful  elements 
that  conspired  to  place  Donald,  and  not  Reginald,  in 
the  position  of  head  of  his  father's  house.  The  first 
family  of  John  of  Isla  had  been  already  thrown  in 
the  shade  by  his  splendid  alliance  with  the  family  of 
the  High  Steward  of  Scotland  through  his  marriage 
with  the  Lady  Margaret,  daughter  of  the  now 
reigning  King,  if  not  also  by  the  degradation  of 
their  mother.  Amy  Macruari,  the  unrighteously 
divorced  wife  of  the  Island  Lord.  Reginald  himself, 
the  surviving  eldest  son  of  the  first  marriage, 
surrendered  his  rights  indifferently,  without  making 
any  claim  to  the  honours  of  his  house,  and,  according 
to  MptcVuirich,  in  direct  opposition  to  the  wishes  of 
the  men  of  the  Isles.  John,  the  eldest  son  of  the 
first  marriage,  is  referred  to  in  the  Treaty  of  1369  as 


then  dead,  while  his  son  Angus,  given  as  a  hostage 
on  that  occasion  for  the  future  good  behaviour  of  his 
grandfather,  did  not  survive  that  potentate,  and  left 
no  issue.  According  to  the  MS.  of  1450,  than  which 
there  is  no  higher  authority  on  this  matter,  Reginald 
was  the  second  son  of  the  first  marriage  of  John  of 
Isla,  and,  failing  the  issue  of  the  first  son,  his 
father's  feudal  heir.  The  authority  of  the  MS.  of 
1450  is  supported  by  others,  among  whom  Mac- 
Vuirich,  who,  though  he  makes  no  mention  of  John, 
places  the  name  of  Reginald  before  that  of  Godfrey, 
Reginald  had  already,  in  the  year  1373,  received  a 
Crown  Charter  of  the  lands  of  Garmoran  and  the 
North  Isles,  all  of  which  were  included  in  the  old 
Macruari  territory  ;  but  the  same  charter  added  also 
the  lands  of  Swynort,  Letter-Lochletter,  Ardgowar, 
Hawleste,  and  60  marklands  in  Lochaber,  namely, 
Lochkymald  and  Locharkage.  In  this  Charter  of 
1373,  Reginald  is  to  hold  his  lands  of  John  of  Isla, 
and  his  heirs.  Who  was  John  of  Isla's  feudal  heir  ? 
Not  Angus,  the  son  of  John,  who,  as  already  stated, 
had  died  without  issue.  It  could  not  have  been 
Reginald,  now  the  eldest  surviving  son  of  John  of 
Isla,  for  Reginald  could  not  be  his  own  vassal.  The 
next  heir  after  Reginald  is  Godfrey,  but  he  lay  no 
claim  to  the  lordship  of  the  Isles,  and  from  what  we 
know  of  his  character,  if  his  father's  heir,  he  was  not 
the  man  to  stand  tamely  aside  and  allow^  Donald 
take  possession  of  the  lordship.  Besides,  the  Charter 
of  1373  is  itself  the  best  evidence  that  Godfrey  could 
not  have  been  his  father's  heir.  It  seems  amply 
clear  that  the  policy  of  John  of  Isla  in  securing  the 
Charter  of  1373  for  Reginald  was  to  bribe  him  out  of 
the  succession.  If  Godfrey  had  been  the  eldest  son, 
it   is   difficult   to  see  how   he  could   have   been  so 


utterly  ignored  by  his  father.  Neither  in  the 
Charter  of  1376.  which  conveys  the  lands  of 
Colonsay  and  others  to  the  sons  of  the  second 
marriage,  nor  in  Reginald's  Charter  of  1373  is  there 
mention  made  of  Godfrey,  or  any  disposition  made 
in  his  favour.  The  subsequent  history  of  the  lord- 
ship of  the  Isles  shows  very  clearly  who  the  heirs 
were  referred  to  in  the  Charter  of  1373.  Reginald, 
though  the  eldest  surviving  son,  became  Donald's 
vassal,  as  the  descendants  of  Reginald  continued  to 
be  the  vassals  of  the  future  lords  of  the  Isles. 
Donald,  however,  undoubtedly  became,  whether  by 
a  feudal  or  Celtic  law,  the  superior  of  all  his  brothers, 
and  his  succession  as  Donald  de  lie  leaves  no  doubt 
as  to  the  meaning  of  the  Charter  of  1373. 

But  Donald,  besides  being  backed  by  the  power- 
ful influence  of  the  King,  his  grandfather,  and  being 
in  the  advantageous  position  of  eldest  son  of  the 
family  then  in  possession,  appeared  in  every  other 
way,  as  events  afterwards  proved,  to  have  been  fitter 
to  rule  over  the  vast  territories  of  the  family  than 
Reginald.  John  of  Isla  himself  took  care  to  disarm 
opposition  by  making  Donald  in  the  Crown  Charter 
of  1373  the  feudal  superior  of  Reginald.  In  all 
the  circumstances,  therefore,  and  in  view  of  the 
unambitious  character  which  we  must  ascribe  to 
Reginald,  the  latter  acted  wisely  in  accepting  the 
situation,  and  offering  no  opposition  to  the  Succession 
of  his  brother.  Accordingly,  as  we  find  from  the 
Book  of  Clanranald,  Reginald,  as  High  Steward  of 
the  Isles,  gave  over  all  the  rights  and  privileges  of 
the  lordship  of  the  Isles  to  Donald  at  Kildonan,  in 
Eigg,  and  he  was  nominated  Macdonald,  and  Donald 
of  Isla,  in  presence  of  the  principal  men  of  the  Isles.  ^ 

^  Book  of  Clanranald  in  Keliq.  Celfc.,  p.  161, 


Donald  had  now  become  not  only  the  feudal 
superior  of  his  brothers,  but  also,  by  the  consent  of 
the  men  of  the  Isles,  the  chief  of  the  Clan  Donald — 
another  instance  of  the  practical  operation  of  the 
unwritten  Celtic  law  which  permitted  the  deposition 
of  one  chief,  as  well  as  the  election  of  another  who 
might  not  be  the  direct  feudal  heir. 

Whatever  opposition  there  may  have  been  to 
Donald's  succession,  it  appears,  by  his  firm  yet 
generous  rule,  to  have  gradually  ceased  ;  and  the 
vassals  of  the  Isles  had  never  been  so  strongly 
cemented  together,  nor  at  any  period  in  the  history 
of  the  lordship  of  the  Isles  do  we  find  the  followers 
of  the  Macdonald  standard  stronger  in  their  attach- 
ment to  their  chief  than  we  now  find  them.  This 
fact  is  sufficient  proof  of  Donald's  administrative 
powers,  no  less  than  of  his  wise  and  just  rule  in  an 
age  and  at  a  time  in  the  history  of  the  country  when 
the  strongest  often  failed.  He  conciliated  his 
brothers  by  the  generous  terms  meted  out  to  them 
in  the  division  of  the  lands  of  the  extensive  terri- 
tories of  which  he  was  the  superior.  He  confirmed 
Keginald  in  the  lands  of  Garmoran,  the  North  Isles, 
and  others,  after  the  death  of  his  father,  John  of 
Isla.  The  position  and  attitude  of  Godfrey,  the 
third  son  of  Amy  Macruari,  does  not  appear, 
however,  to  be  very  clear,  either  at  this  juncture 
or  during  his  subsequent  history.  We  may  infer 
from  the  Charter  of  1373,  by  which  Uist,  with  the 
Castle  of  Benbecula  and  other  lands,  are  conferred 
on  Reginald,  that  North  Uist  had  been  the  portion 
allotted  by  John  to  his  son  Godfrey,  and  that  he 
possessed  it  during  the  lifetime  of  his  father.  The 
same  Insula  de  Wyst,  mentioned  in  the  Charter  of 
1373,   is   confirmed   to   Eanald    MacAUan    in    the 

136  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

year  1498,  and  all  the  lands  specified  in  that  charter 
as  being  in  Wyst  are  in  South  Uist.  In  a  charter 
conveying  the  Trinity  Church  of  Oarinish,  with  the 
lands  of  Carinish  and  Illeray  in  North  Uist  to  the 
Monastery  and  Convent  of  St  John  the  Evangelist  in 
Inchaffray,  Godfrey  styles  himself  Godfridus  de 
Insidis  Dominus  de  Wyst.  But  he  dates  his  charter 
apud  castrum  nostrum  de  Ellantyrum,  the  principal 
residence  of  the  Clanranald.  According  to  the  Book 
of  Clanranald,  E/Cginald  died  in  1386,  and  Godfrey's 
Charter  is  dated  7th  July,  1389.  It  appears,  there- 
fore, that  on  the  death  of  Keginald,  Godfrey  possessed 
himself  of  Garmoran  and  other  lands  granted  to  the 
former,  and  that  he  was  allowed  to  keep  possession, 
notwithstanding  a  confirmation,  in  the  year  1392  by 
Kobert  III.,  of  the  Castle  of  Elian tirrim,  the  lands 
of  Garmoran  and  others,  to  Reginald's  heirs.  ^ 
Whether  Godfrey  was  encouraged  or  in  any  way 
assisted  by  Donald  in  this  enterprise  we  have  no 
means  of  knowing ;  but  it  is  evident  that  he  could 
not  have  kept  possession  long  if  Donald  had  chosen 
to  oppose  his  pretensions,  and  in  view  of  all  the 
circumstances  we  are  warranted  in  concluding  that 
Godfrey  made  out  a  plausible  claim,  as  a  descendant 
of  the  Macruaries,  to  the  lands  of  which  he  possessed 
himself  The  sons  of  Heginald  were  likely  enough 
to  have  assumed  a  defensive  attitude,  and  resisted 
the  aggressive  pretensions  of  Godfrey  to  the  utmost; 
but  it  is  difiicult  to  say,  in  the  absence  of  any 
positive  evidence,  with  what  immediate  result,  even 
though  supported,  as  they  were,  by  the  Crown 
Charter  of  1373.  It  appears  to  be  abundantly 
clear  that,  in  the  lifetime  of  Godfrey  at  least,  the 
principal  lands  in  the  Macruari  territory  were  not 
possessed  by  the  sons  of  Heginald.  ^ 

^  Register  of  the  Great  Seal. 


DONALD    OF    HARLAW.  137 

The  sons  of  the  second  marriage  of  John  of  Isla 
were  amply  provided  for  out  of  the  family  inherit- 
ance. Donald  himself,  besides  the  superiority  of 
the  whole  Macdonald  territory  included  in  the 
lordship  of  the  Isles,  possessed  directly  the  lands 
of  Colonsay  and  others  not  included  in  the  grants 
bestowed  on  the  younger  sons.  John  Mor  Tainistear, 
the  second  son,  received  a  grant  of  120  marklands 
in  Kintyre  and  60  marklands  in  Isla.  He  became 
the  founder  of  the  family  styled  of  Dunnyveg  and 
the  Glens,  the  latter  of  which  he  acquired  through 
his  marriage  with  Margery  Bisset,  the  daughter 
and  heiress  of  MacEoin  Bisset,  Lord  of  the  Antrim 
Glens.  It  will  be  observed  that  only  certain  lands 
in  Isla  were  granted  to  John  Mor,  whose  residence 
there  was  the  Castle  of  Dun-Naomhaig,  while 
Finlaggan  Castle,  in  the  same  island,  was  the 
residence  of  Donald,  his  brother,  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles.  As  matter  of  fact,  the  family  of  John  Mor 
never  did  possess  the  whole  of  the  island  of  Isla, 
either  before  or  after  the  forfeiture  of  the  lordship 
of  the  Isles,  and  they  never  arrogated  to  themselves 
the  designation  de  lie,  or  of  Isla,  which  was  the 
peculiar  and  exclusive  designation  of  the  head  of 
the  house  of  Macdonald,  and  ceased  with  John,  the 
last  Lord  of  the  Isles,  who  died  in  1498. 

The  next  son  of  the  second  marriage  of  John  of 
Isla  was,  according  to  the  MS.  of  1450 — which  is 
always  safe  to  follow — Angus,  who  having  died 
young  without  issue,  there  is  nothing  recorded  of 
him  but  the  bare  name.  The  fourth  son  was 
Alasdair,  afterwards  known  as  Alasdair  Carrach, 
progenitor  of  the  Macdonalds  of  Keppoch.  On 
him  were  bestowed  lands  in  Mull,  and  also  the 
lands  of  Lochaber,   preferring   these,   according   to 

138  THE   CLAN   DONALD, 

the  Sleat  historian,  to  the  lands  of  Troternish,  m 
Skye,  of  which  he  had  his  choice. 

Besides  these,  there  appears  also  to  have  been 
another  son  of  the  second  marriaj^e  of  John  of  Isla, 
named  Hugh,  hitherto  ignored  by  the  historians  of 
the  family.  Kobert  the  Steward  of  Scotland,  before 
he  succeeded  to  the  throne,  granted,  as  Lord  of 
Athol,  a  charter  of  the  whole  thanage  of  Glentilt  to 
Eugenius,  Thane  of  Glentilt,  and  brother  of  Reginald 
of  the  Isles. ^  From  the  fact  that  the  lands  were 
conferred  by  the  Steward,  we  naturally  conclude 
that  Hugh  was  of  the  second  family  of  the  Lord  of 
the  Isles,  and,  therefore,  the  Steward's  own  grand- 
son. In  1382,  a  safe  conduct,  dated  at  Westminster 
on  the  21st  of  October,  is  granted  to  Hugh  of  the 
Isles  by  Richard  II.,  and  an  escort  of  six  horsemen 
accompany  him  to  the  English  borders.^  In  the 
same  year  we  find  the  following  entry  in  the  Scottish 
Exchequer  Rolls  : — "  Et  Hugoni  de  Insulis,  de  dono 
regis,  ut  patet  per  literam  suam  de  precepto  sub 
secreto,  ostensam  super  compotem  sub  periculo 
computantis  iijli."^  Again  in  the  year  1403  we 
have  : — "  Et  domino  quondam  Hugoni  de  Insulis, 
de  dono  regis,  prout  pater  per  literas  suas  de  recepto 
de  anno  hujus  compoti  ostensas  super  compotum 
vli."^  Skene  asserts  that  the  family  descended 
from  Hugh  became  Mclntoshes  from  one  of  them 
whose  name  was  Finlay  Toiseach,  Thane  of  Glen- 
tilt. This  is  highly  probable,  for  we  have  never 
been  able  to  identify  any  of  the  descendants  of 
Hugh  under  the  name  of  Macdonald,  and  from  the 
fact  that  the  heads  of  the  family  were  styled  Thanes 

1  Skene's  Celtic  Scotland,  vol.  III.,  p.  272.     Atholl  Charter  Chest, 

"  Rotuli  Scotiic,  vol.  11. ,  p.  45. 

3  Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  III.,  p.  92.         ^  Ibid.,  vol.  Ill,,  p,  576, 


or  Toiseachs,  there  is  every  reason  to  suppose  that  in 
time  they  became  Mclntoshes. 

Though  the  lands  of  the  lordship  of  the  Isles 
were  thus  divided  between  the  sons  of  the  two 
marriages  of  John  of  Isla,  the  superiority  of  the 
whole  still  remained  in  Donald,  now  the  acknow- 
ledged chief  of  the  Clan  Donald,  and  we  are  not 
by  any  means  disposed  to  agree  with  Skene  and 
others  in  saying  that  this  division  of  the  lands  of 
the  lordship  weakened  the  power  of  the  Clan 
Donald,  and  finally  brought  about  the  downfall  of 
the  lordship  itself  The  real  cause  of  the  downfall 
of  the  lordship  of  the  Isles  must  be  sought  else- 
where, and  may  be  summed  up  briefly  in  the 
struggle  of  Saxon  against  Celt — a  struggle  which 
could  only  result  finally,  as  we  find  it  did,  in  a  fight 
so  uneciual,  in  the  triumph  of  the  stronger  over  the 
weaker  forces.  Instead  of  weakening  the  power  of 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  the  division  of  the  heritage  of 
the  family  seems  very  materially  to  have  increased 
it.  If  the  intention  of  the  Charter  of  1373  was 
partly  to  cripple  the  resources,  influence,  and  organic 
unity  of  the  Island  family,  that  policy  certainly  did 
not  succeed,  for  the  cadets  of  the  family  themselves, 
no  less  than  the  other  vassals  of  the  lordship  of  the 
Isles,  continued  to  adhere  loyally  to  the  Macdonald 
standard  until  the  final  attempt  to  set  up  the  Celtic 
supremacy  in  the  Isles  failed  in  the  rebellion  of 
Donald  Dubh. 

The  first  mention  we  have  of  Donald,  Lord  of 
the  Isles,  in  any  record,  is  in  the  year  1369,  when, 
according  to  the  Treaty  of  Inverness,  he  was  given 
as  a  hostage  to  the  king  for  the  future  good 
behaviour  of  his  father,  John  of  Isla.  Donald  would 
then  have  been  about  ten  years  of  age,  if  we  are 

140  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

right  in  assuming  that  the  second  marriage  of  John 
of  Isla  took  place  in  the  year  1358.  His  compulsory 
residence  in  the  Castle  of  Dumbarton  could  not  in 
the  nature  of  things  have  tended  to  make  him  loyal 
to  the  Scottish  throne.  The  policy  of  the  Scottish 
State  in  detaining  Donald,  and  the  other  sons  of  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  though  the  means  of  bringing 
about  a  temporary  cessation  of  hostilities  in  the 
Isles,  proved  ultimately  an  unwise  and  short-sighted 
policy.  Donald  is  no  sooner  set  at  liberty  than  he 
assumes  a  defensive  attitude,  and  he  seems  deter- 
mined to  wreak  vengeance  on  his  former  jailers. 
He  at  once  assumed  the  role  of  an  Independent 
prince.  He  owed  no  loyalty  to  the  Scottish  State ; 
on  the  contrary  he  looked  upon  the  Kings  of 
Scotland  as  interlopers  within  the  Island  territory. 
The  Celt  and  the  Saxon  had  little  In  common,  and 
Donald  was  intensely  Celtic.  The  two  races.  In  all 
their  aims  and  characteristics,  in  language  and  in 
sentiment,  were  as  wide  apart  as  the  poles. 
Donald's  policy  clearly  was  to  set  up  a  Celtic 
supremacy  In  the  West,  independent  of  all  inter- 
ference from  the  Saxon  importation  in  the  South. 

It  is  from  this  purely  Celtic  point  of  view  that 
his  conduct  and  that  of  his  house  must  be  judged, 
and  viewing  It  in  this  light  it  may  well  be  justified. 
Loyalty  to  the  Scottish  State  in  these  circumstances 
could  hardly  be  expected,  and  could  not  consistently 
be  observed  by  the  Island  Lord.  A  princely  inheri- 
tance had  been  handed  down  to  him  through 
successive  generations  of  men  inspired  by  the  same 
motives  and  actuated  by  the  same  feeling  of  hostility 
towards  the  enemies  of  their  race,  and  Donald  must 
now  consider  how  best  to  preserve  it. 

DONALD    OF    HAUL  AW.  141 

The  strained  political*  relations  between  England 
and  Scotland  favoured  negotiation  with  the  former 
country,  and  accordingly  the  Island  Lord  and  his 
brothers  are  found  visiting  the  English  Court 
frequently  during  the  years  from  1378  to  1408. 
In  the  year  1378  a  safe  conduct  is  granted  by 
Richard  II.  to  Donald,  "  filio  Johannis  de  Insulis, 
clerico,"  on  his  return  from  the  University  of  Oxford, 
where  he  had  been  educated  for  the  Church.^  This 
Donald  is  referred  to  in  the  treaty  concluded 
between  David  11.  and  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in 
1369,  and  is  given  on  that  occasion  as  a  hostage  for 
the  future  good  behaviour  of  his  father."  In  1382, 
Hugh  of  the  Isles,  as  we  have  seen,  visits  England, 
probably  as  ambassador  from  the  Isles,  and  is 
honoured  on  his  return  with  an  escort  of  six  horse- 
men.^ In  1388,  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  his 
brothers,  Godfrey  and  John  Mor,  visit  the  English 
Court  and  are  received  as  independent  Celtic 
princes,  while  at  the  same  time  they  enter  into  a 
league  with  Hichard  II.,  to  which  John,  Bishop  of 
the  Isles,  is  a  party.* 

In  the  year  1400,  a  safe  conduct,  dated  at  West- 
minster on  February  5th,  is  granted  to  John  of  the 
Isles  and  Donald  his  brother  ^\ith  an  escort  of 
80  horsemen.^  From  the  language  in  which  this 
document  is   couched,   it   seems  the  brothers   were 

^  Rotuli  Scotipe,  vol.  II.,  p.  11. 

2  Vide  Ti-eaty  of  Inverness,  p.  121. 

^"Salvus  Concluctus  pro  Hugone  of  the  Oute  Isles."  Westminster, 
Oct.  21,  1382.— Rotuli  Scotiro,  vol.  II.,  p.  45. 

^  "  Episcopo  Sodorensi  datur  potestas  tractandi  de  confederationibus  cum 
filiis  Johannis,  uujjer  domini  Insularum." — Rotuli  Scoticc,  vol.  II.,  jj.  94. 

^  "  Rex  universis  et  singulis  admirallis,  etc.,  salu tern  Sciatis  quod  cum 
nobilis  vir  Johannes  de  Insulis  Dorainus  Dunwage  et  de  Glyuns  et  Donaldus 
fratur  ejus,  etc." — Rotuli  Scotite  in  Turri  Londouensi,  vol.  II.,  155. 

142  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

received  at  the  English  Court  with  much  distinction 
and  ceremony.  In  July  of  the  same  year  we  find 
the  two  brothers  again  visiting  England  and 
entering  into  a  defensive  league  with  Henry  lY.^ 
In  the  years  1405  and  1408,  Donald  and  John 
repeat  these  visits,  and  renew  their  alliance  with  the 
English  monarch.^  Thus  the  exigencies  of  political 
warfare  forced  the  Island  family  to  seek  the  friendly 
alliance  of  England  against  an  aggressive  Scottish 
neighbour,  and  English  statesmen  were  not  slow  to 
take  advantage  of  so  favourable  an  opportunity  to 
advance  the  English  policy  towards  Scotland.  The 
conduct  of  the  Island  Lord  may  appear  on  the  face 
of  it  unpatriotic,  but  in  reality  it  was  not  so,  though, 
as  it  ultimately  proved,  it  was  an  unwise  and  short- 
sighted policy.  It  was  a  consistent  and  open 
declaration  of  the  policy  of  his  house,  and  an 
assertion  of  the  ancient  Celtic  independence  of  his 
family.  Meantime  it  served  to  disarm  opposition  on 
the  part  of  the  Scottish  State,  and  secured  the 
Independence  of  the  Island  Lord  for  a  time,  though 
ultimately  it  helped  to  bring  about  the  downfall  of 
his  family. 

A  peculiar  incident  In  the  romantic  exile  of 
Richard  II.  of  England  Is  an  indication  of  the 
friendly  alliance  between  the  family  of  the  Isles 
and  the  English  Court  at  the  period  under  review. 
The  revolution  that  placed  Henry  of  Lancaster  on 
the  throne  of  England  drove  Richard  II. ,  as  a  State 
prisoner,  to  Pontefract  Castle.  Shortly  afterwards 
the  news  spread  abroad  that  Richard  was  dead,  but, 
In  reality,  and  there  Is  no  reason  to  doubt  the 
accuracy    of  the   story,   he   had    escaped   from    his 

1  Rymer's  Foedera,  vol.  VIII.,  p.  146.         -  Ibidem,  pp.  418,  527. 

DONALD    OF    HARLAW.  143 

jailers  and,  in  the  disguise  of  a  beggar,  found  his 
way  to  Finlaggan  Castle  in  Isla,  the  seat  of  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles.  Here  he  was  recognised  by- 
Margery  Bisset,  the  wife  of  John  Mor  Tainistear, 
brother  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles.  This  lady,  who 
had  recently  been  married  to  John  Mor,  had  seen 
the  unfortunate  royal  exile  in  her  native  Ireland, 
and  immediately  recognised  him  though  in  such 
humble  disguise.^  Donald  received  the  deposed 
monarch  kindly,  and  hospitably  entertained  him, 
until  a  safe  asylum  had  been  secured  for  him  at 
the  court  of  the  Scottish  King. 

The  differences  between  Donald  of  Isla  and  his 
royal  relatives,  though  at  first  not  very  easily 
defined,  seem  to  have  had  the  effect  of  causing  a 
domestic  quarrel  between  them.  Donald  and  his 
brothers,  John  Mor  and  Alasdair  Carrach,  were 
accused  of  want  of  filial  affection  towards  their 
mother,  the  King's  sister.  What  grounds  there 
were  for  this  serious  charge  against  the  brothers 
it  is  difficult  to  say,  for  none  were  specified,  though 
we  may  easily  conjecture  that  the  brunt  of  their 

^"  Bot  in  the  Out-Tlys  of  Scotland  than 
There  was  a  travelland  a  pure  man  ; 
A  Lordis  dochter  of  Ireland, 
Of  the  Bissatis  there  dwellaiid, 
Wes  weddyt  with  a  gentleman — 
The  Lord  of  the  Ilys  bruither  than, 
In  Ireland  before  quhan  schee  liad  bene, 
And  the  King  Richard  tliar  had  Fene  ; 
Quhen  in  the  Islys  schee  saw  this  man 
Schee  let  that  she  weel  kend  hym  than, 
Till  her  maistere  soon  schee  jjast 
And  thar  till  hym  all  sae  fast 
That  hee  wes  the  King  of  Yugland 
That  she  before  saw  in  Irland, 
When  hee  wes  tharin  before, 
As  schee  drew  than  to  memore." — Wtntoune, 

144  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

offending  was  their  Celtic  tendencies  generally,  and' 
particularly  their  independent  attitude  towards  the 
Scottish  State.  In  these  circumstances,  and  amid 
such  surroundings,  the  King  enjoined  the  Earl  of 
Fife  to  protect  his  sister,  the  Lady  of  the  Isles. 
This  interference  was  very  naturally  resented  by 
Donald  and  his  brothers,  and  it  so  exasperated 
them  that  they  immediately  raised  the  standard 
of  rebellion.  Though  Donald  had  made  no  formal 
claim  to  the  Earldom  of  Ross  at  this  early  stage 
in  the  chequered  history  of  that  much  contested 
possession,  we  may  well  believe  that  he  followed 
closely  the  course  of  events,  and  that  he  was  by 
no  means  a  disinterested  spectator.  On  the  death 
of  the  notorious  Wolf  of  Badenoch  in  1394,  the 
Castle  and  lands  of  Urquhart,  which  formed  part 
of  the  extensive  Earldom  of  Ross,  and  which  were 
held  by  the  Wolf  in  right  of  his  wife,  the  Countess 
of  Ross,  became  the  scene  of  much  confusion  and 
strife.  Alasdair  Carrach,  aided  and  abetted  by 
his  brother,  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  threw  himself 
into  the  conflict  and  took  possession  of  the  Castle 
and  lands  of  Urquhart.  His  tenure  was  a  short- 
lived one.  The  details  of  this  rebellion  have  not 
been  preserved,  but  it  had  one  result  at  least  in 
the  imprisonment  of  Alexander  Carrach,  who  seems 
to  have  rendered  himself  more  conspicuous  than 
the  other  brothers,  and  thus  sustained  the  character 
which  so  w^ell  became  him  in  after  years.  The 
imprisonment  of  Alexander  was  little  better  than 
a  farce,  which,  having  been  played  out,  in  the 
course  of  the  following  year  he  was  released. 
Donald,  who  had  been  his  kindly  jailer,  had,  how- 
ever,   to   appear   before  Parliament   to   answer  for 

DONALD    OF   HARLAW,  145 

his  prisoner,  which  having  done,  the  feigned  royal 
anger  was  assuaged.^ 

When  Donald  of  Isla  again  appears  on  the 
historical  stag^e  it  is  as  chief  actor  in  the  drama 
of  the  year  1411.  He  does  not  appear  to  have 
taken  any  prominent  part  in  the  politics  of  the 
years  immediately  following  the  death  of  King 
E-obert  III.,  nor  do  we  find  him  opposing,  or 
acquiescing  in,  the  appointment  of  the  Duke  of 
Albany  as  E-egent  of  the  Kingdom,  though  we 
may  conjecture  from  after  events  that  he  did  not 
look  upon  it  with  favour.  The  remote  situation 
of  the  island  lordship,  the  assertion  of  independence 
on  the  part  of  Donald  himself,  together  with  the 
entire  want  of  sympathy  with  southern  aims, 
explains  the  disappearance  of  a  nobleman  of  the 
Island  Lord's  rank  from  the  Scottish  politics  of 
this  period.  It  is  only  when  the  interests  of  his 
own  family  and  race  are  at  stake  that  the  Island 
Chief  steps  boldly  upon  the  stage  and  plays  a 
prominent  part.  The  rumoured  resignation  of  her 
rights  by  Euphemia  Lesley,  the  daughter  and 
heiress  of  Alexander  Lesley,  Earl  of  Hoss,  is  the 
cause  of  his  now  re-appearing  from  his  temporary 
retirement.  The  Earldom  of  Ross  was  too  great 
a  prize  to  be  lightly  passed  over  by  the  Island 
Lord,  and  he  eagerly  watches  his  opportunity  to 
lay  hold  on  it.  In  extent  the  earldom  comprised 
the  old  district  of  Hoss,  Cromarty,  and  that  portion 
of  ancient  Argyle  extending  westwards  from  Glenelg 
to  Lochbroom,  including  the  coast  lands  of  Kintail, 
Lochalsh,    Lochcarron,    Applecross,    and    Gairloch. 

1  Acts  of  the  Pari,  of  Scotland,  Vul.  I.,  p.  503.  April  22, 1398—"  Preterea 
ordinatum  est  quod  si  ofEeratur  tractatua  ut  submissio  ex  parte  rebellaucium 
quod  uon  recipiatur  uiai  in  forma  que  aequitur  viz.  quod  domiuus  iiisularum 
et  fratres  sui  Johannes  et  Alexander  et  consilarii  eorum  principales,  etc.,  etc." 


146  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

It  extended  Inland  as  far  east  as  Urquhart,  and 
included  the  parish  of  Kilmorack,  now  in  the  county 
of  Inverness.  In  addition  to  the  foregoing  the 
Earls  of  Ross  were  superiors  of  lands  of  which  the 
following  are  the  more  important : — In  the  County 
of  Aberdeen,  the  lands  of  Auchterless  and  King- 
Edward  ;  in  the  County  of  Inverness,  the  lands  of 
Innermerky  in  the  lordship  of  Badenoch ;  in  the 
County  of  Nairn,  the  lands  of  Balmakayth,  Both, 
Banchre,  Bate,  Kynowdie,  Kinsteary,  Kilravock, 
Easter  Geddes,  Dumnaglass,  and  Cawdor. 

This  large  territory,  or  at  all  events  Boss  proper, 
had  formerly  been  under  the  sway  of  Celtic  maor- 
mors,  and  for  centuries  had  suffered  from  the 
incursions  of  both  Norse  and  Dane.^  At  this  time 
the  Scandinavian  element  largely  preponderated 
over  the  original  Pictish  inhabitants,  but  the  two 
had  gradually  become  amalgamated  into  one  people, 
and  the  Celtic  spirit,  which  had  survived  the  shock 
of  centuries  of  Teutonic  oppression,  seems  still  to 
have  pervaded  the  great  body  of  the  population. 
The  introduction  of  feudal  laws  and  institutions  in 
the  South  aifected,  almost  simultaneously,  the  old 
order  of  things  in  the  North.  The  Celtic  maormor 
gave  place  to  the  Norman  baron.  The  last  maormor 
of  Boss  of  whom  we  have  any  record  was  Macbeth, 
who  became  King  of  Scotland  in  1040,  and  was 
murdered  in  the  year  1056.^  The  first  Earl  of  Boss 
of  whom  there  is  any  notice  was  Gillanders,  of  the 
Celtic  family  of  Obeolan,  who  were  hereditary  lay 
abbots  of  Applecross  ;  but  whether  he  assumed  the 
dignity  or  had  it  conferred  upon  him,  he  is  at  all 

^  Annals  of  Tigernach.     Ncnuius  (Irish  Version),  pp.  Ixxvii.,  Ixxix. 
-Reg.  Prior  S.  Andre,  p.  114.      Chron.  de  Mailros,  pp.  47-51.      lunes'a 
Critical  Essay,  pp.  791,  803, 

bONALD   (yp   HARLAW.  14.? 

events  referred  to  as  Earl  in  the  year  1160.^  The  next 
Earl  of  Koss  appears  to  have  been  Malcolm  MacHeth, 
who  held  the  earldom  only  for  a  very  brief  period.^ 
In  1161,  William  the  Lion  created  Florence,  Count 
of  Holland,  Earl  of  Ross,  on  his  marriage  with  that 
King's  sister.^  In  or  about  tiie  year  1212,  Alex- 
ander II.  created  Ferchard  Macintagart,  of  the 
Obeolan  family  of  AjDplecross,  Earl  of  Boss,  for 
services  rendered  to  the  King.  He  was  succeeded 
by  his  son  William  as  second  Earl  of  the  new 
creation.  William  was  succeeded  by  his  son  William 
as  third  Earl.  The  third  Earl  was  succeeded  by 
his  son  Hugh  as  fourth  Earl.  Earl  Hugh,  who 
was  killed  in  the  battle  of  Halidon  Hill,  was 
succeeded  by  his  son  William  as  fifth  Earl. 
Earl  William,  on  the  death  of  his  brother  Hugh, 
his  heir,  resigned  the  earldom,  but  David  II. 
renewed  a  grant  of  it  to  him  and  his  heirs 
male,  with  remainder  to  Sir  Walter  Lesley  and 
his  wife,  the  Earl's  daughter.  Thus  the  line  of 
succession  was  diverted  from  heirs  male  exclusively 
to  heirs  general,  and  accordingly  on  the  death  of 
the  fifth  Earl  in  1372,  his  daughter  succeeded  him 
as  Countess  of  Hoss.  Sir  Walter  Lesley  having 
died  in  1382,  his  widow,  Euj)hemia,  Countess  of 
Koss,  married  Alexander  Stewart,  Earl  of  Buchan, 
to  whom  the  King,  at  the  desire  of  Euphemia, 
confirmed  a  grant  of  the  earldom,  and  he  after- 
wards appears  in  record  as  Earl  of  Boss,  to  the 
exclusion  of  Alexander  Lesley,  Euphemia's  son. 
Alexander  Lesley,  however,  ultimately  succeeded  to 
the  Earldom  in  the  year  1398,  and  dying  in  1402, 
his  only  daughter,   who   bore  the  family  name  of 

^  Wyntoune.        ^  Register  of  Duufermliue,  p.  25. 
»  P»lg.  lUust.,  vol.  I.,  pp.  20,  21. 

148  THE   CLAX   DONALD. 

Euphemia,  became  Countess  of  Ross.  The  mother 
of  the  Countess  of  Ross  was  the  Lady  Isabella 
Stewart,  daughter  of  Robert,  Duke  of  Albany,  the 
regent  of  the  kingdom,  and  her  aunt  was  Margaret 
Lesley,  daughter  of  Sir  Walter  Lesley  and  the 
Countess  Euphemia  of  Ross.  The  Lady  Margaret 
Lesley  was  the  wife  of  Donald,  Lord  of  the  Isles, 
and  therefore  the  nearest  living  relative  in  the  line 
of  succession  to  the  Earldom  of  Ross  after  the 
Countess  Euphemia. 

In  the  event  of  Euphemia's  death  or  resignation, 
it  is  obvious  that  we  have  abundant  materials  for  a 
fierce  domestic  quarrel,  and  on  account  of  the 
position  of  the  parties,  the  elements  of  a  stirring 
historical  drama.  The  principal  actors  in  the  events 
that  followed  were  all  nearly  related  by  blood  to  one 
another,  as  well  as  kindred  to  the  Scottish  throne. 
Chief  in  position  was  Albany,  who  for  many  years 
held,  as  Regent,  the  supreme  power  in  the  State. 
Devoid  of  the  warlike  qualities  which  his  brothers 
possessed,  in  fact  a  man  of  suspected  courage  in  the 
field,  he  was  intellectually  head  and  shoulders  above 
all  the  other  sons  of  Robert  II.  But  his  talents, 
which  undoubtedly  were  lofty,  were  prostituted 
to  dark  and  selfish  intrigue.  It  is  no  unfounded 
suspicion  that  he  condoned,  if  he  did  not  actually 
compass,  the  murder  of  the  Duke  of  Rothesay,  his 
nephew,  and  heir  apparent  to  the  throne;  and  if 
he  did  not  allow  his  other  nephew  James  to  be 
captured  by  the  English,  he  ofiered  no  protest 
against  his  long  imprisonment.  Of  determined 
resolution  and  unflinching  purpose,  he  never  amid 
the  various  and  conflicting  currents  of  State  policy 
lost  sight  of  his  own  ends,  nor  did  he  scruple  to 
sweep  out  of  his  path  whoever  stood  in  the  way  of 

DONALD    OF   HARLAW.  149 

the  execution  of  his  designs.  Had  he  been  a  single- 
hearted  Scottish  patriot,  animated  by  zeal  for  the 
national  welfare,  and  the  safety  of  the  State,  his 
policy  in  keeping  the  family  of  the  Isles  out  of 
the  succession  to  the  Earldom  of  E-oss  would,  from  a 
national  standpoint,  have  been  worthy  of  all  praise. 
If  the  addition  of  (iarmoran  and  the  North  Isles  to 
the  House  of  Isla  in  the  reign  of  David  II.  con- 
stituted a  source  of  danger  to  Scottish  supremacy, 
the  further  addition  of  the  Earldom  of  Ross  to  the 
already  extensive  Island  domains,  would  make  the 
Island  Lord  a  still  more  formidable  antao-onist. 
But  there  were  interests  dearer  to  Albany  than  the 
Scottish  weal.  His  own  interests  came  first,  the 
aggrandisement  of  his  family  came  second  in  the 
order  of  importance,  and  the  interests  of  Scotland 
came  last.  But  it  suited  his  personal  and  family 
ambition  to  put  on  this  occasion  the  last  first,  and 
thus,  under  cover  of  patriotism,  play  the  game 
which  through  his  far-sighted  policy  he  had  so 
elaborately  planned.  The  course  pursued  reveals 
the  hand  of  a  master  in  diplomatic  arts.  Euphemia 
Lesley,  the  heiress  of  Boss,  was  sickly,  some  say 
deformed,  and  not  likely  to  live  long.^  If  she  died 
without  making  a  special  destination  of  her  posses- 
sions and  honours,  these  would  in  the  natural  course 
of  things  devolve  on  Lady  Margaret  of  the  Isles. 
This  was  a  consummation  by  all  means,  fair  or  foul, 
to  be  prevented,  and  hence  the  cunningly  devised 
plot.     The  heiress  of  so   much  worldly  wealth  and 

^  "  Alexander  Lesley,  Earl  of  Ross,  married  Euphame,  and  had  issue  a 
crookbacked  daughter,  Euphame  " — Rothes  MSS.  in  the  Adv.  Lib.,  p.  99. 
"  Alexander  Lesley,  after  the  death  of  his  father,  succeeded  in  the  Earldom 
Ross.  He  married  Lady  Euphame,  &c.,  and  by  her  had  issue  a  daughter 
Euphame  'yat  was  crouchbacked ' " — MS.  History  of  the  Earls  of  Ross  in 
Advocates'  Library,  lac.  v.  6-17,  p.  327. 

150  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

honour  is  found  to  have  interests  that  are  not  of 
this  world.  She  is  found  to  have  a  call  from  heaven 
to  devote  herself  to  the  exclusive  exercise  of  piety. 
She  must  be  secluded  from  all  earthly  interests,  and 
resign  for  ever  every  worldly  ambition.  Above  all, 
she  must  not  directly  or  indirectly  be  brought  under 
the  influence  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  his  lady. 
Euphemia  at  length  betakes  herself  to  a  convent, 
and  the  cool  and  wary  schemer  that  wielded  the 
helm  of  State  was  biding  the  time  when  she  came  of 
legal  age  to  resign  her  rights  into  his  hands.  If  she 
died  before  then,  he  probably  had  another  card  to 
play,  but  meantime  she  was  secure  against  all 
machinations  but  his  own. 

Donald  was  no  match  for  Albany  in  this  game  of 
Tpoliticsl  Ji7iesse.  Whatever  were  his  faults,  or  those 
of  his  race,  they  never  fought  with  the  weapons  of 
duplicity  or  intrigue,  though  often  their  victims. 
The  Lord  of  the  Isles,  therefore,  had  recourse  to  the 
argument  which  was  best  understood  in  the  brave 
days  of  old.  In  addition  to  the  conquest  of  Ross,  it 
is  said  that  Donald  had  other  designs,  but  it  is 
difficult  to  conceive  what  these  could  have  been. 
The  wild  and  extensive  scheme  which  historians 
have  alleged  Donald  to  have  conceived  of  making 
himself  master  of  all  Scotland  is  too  utterly 
incredible,  and  may  be  dismissed  at  once  as 
unworthy  of  any  consideration.  The  conflict,  more- 
over, was  not  one  between  Celt  and  Saxon  as  such, 
nor  was  the  struggle  one  for  the  supremacy  of  the 
one  race  over  the  other.  Unquestionably  the 
occasion  of  unfurling  the  Macdonald  banner  at  this 
time  was  the  conduct  of  Albany,  in  relation  to  the 
disputed  succession  to  the  Earldom  of  Ross,  and 
Donald  had  no  higher  ambition  than  to  make  him- 
self master  of  that  extensive  territory. 


According  to  the  Sleat  historian,  Donald  told  the 
Governor  that  he  would  either  lose  all  or  gain  the 
earldom  to  which  he  had  such  a  good  title.  He 
maintained  that  Euphemia,  the  heu^ess  to  the  earl- 
dom, having  become  the  bride  of  heaven,  and  given 
up  the  world,  might  be  regarded  as  legally  dead,  and 
Lady  Margaret  of  the  Isles  became  ipso  facto  her 
successor/  The  contention  seemed  a  sound  enough 
one,  according  to  the  canons  of  equity,  and  our 
sympathies  are  naturally  with  Donald,  who,  with 
chivalrous  daring,  was  prepared  to  fight  with  his 
strong  right  arm  for  what  he  deemed  his  own,  rather 
than  with  the  wily  Regent,  who  pulled  the  wires  of 
State,  and  had  the  resources  of  a  kingdom  at  his 

The  heather  was  soon  aflame,  and  the  fiery  cross 
blazed  through  the  Isles,  as  well  as  through  those 
mainland  regions  in  which  the  Macdonald  power 
was  predominant.  The  whole  Clan,  with  its  vassals, 
raUied  to  the  fight.  From  many  a  glen,  and  strath, 
and  isle,  the  Gaelic  warriors  hastened  to  the 
rendezvous,  where  the  ancient  banner  of  the  Kings 
of  Innsegall  was  unfurled  to  its  native  breeze.  The 
Macleans  and  Mackinnons,  the  hardy  Clans  of  Mull, 
the  Clan  Chattan  from  lone  Lochaber,  and  the 
Macleods  from  the  rugged  hills  of  Harris  and  Lewis, 
obeyed  the  call  to  arms. 

On  the  point  of  Ardthornish,  in  Morvern,  com- 
manding the  water-way  which  washes  the  shores  of 
ancient  Oirthirghael,  stood  a  residence  and  strong- 
hold of  the  Macdonalds, 

"  Which  on  her  frowning  steep 
Twixt  cloud  and  ocean  hung." 

^  Euphame  "rendered  herself  religious  among  the  nuns  of  North  Berwick  in 
Haddingtonshire" — MS.  Hist,  of  the  Earls  of  Ross,  &c, 

152  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Only  the  walls  of  its  keep  are  still  erect,  towering 
high  above  the  rocky  promontory  like  a  sentinel 
grim  and  hoary  keeping  watch  and  ward,  where  of 
old,  in  the  days  of  its  glory,  it 

"  Overlooked  dark  Mull  thy  mighty  sound, 
Where  thwarting  tides  with  mingled  roar 
Part  thy  swarth  hills  from  Morvern's  shore."  ^ 

From  its  commanding  position,  Ardthornish  was  well 
adapted  as  a  vantage  ground  for  defence  or  attack, 
by  land  or  sea,  and  there  could  be  no  better 
rendezvous  for  the  assembling  of  the  host  that  was 
to  invade  the  Earldom  of  Ross. 

"  'N  uair  dh'  eireas  Clann  Domhnuill 
Na  leomhainn  tha  garg 
Na  beo-bheithir,  mh6r-leathunn 
Chonnspunnach,  gharbh, 
Luchd  sheasamh  na  c5i'ach 
Do  'n  ordugh  Lamh-dhearg, 
Mo  dhoigh  gu  'm  bu  ghorach 
Dhaibh  t6iseachadh  oirbh."^ 

"  When  the  valiant  Clan  D6nuill, 
The  lions  in  might. 
Like  thunder  bolts  gleaming, 
With  blades  flashing  bright. 
Brave  sons  of  the  Ked  Hand, 
Declare  for  the  right, 
Then  woe  to  the  foeman 
That  meets  them  in  fight." 

It  was  a  little  after  midsummer  when  Macdonald 
and  his  fleet  arrived  on  the  West  Coast  of  Boss- 
shire,  and  the  army  disembarked  at  Strome.  March- 
ing through  the  great  glens  of  Ross  they  soon 
reached  the  vicinity  of  Dingwall.  But  the  conquest 
of  Boss  was  not  to  be  unopposed.  The  county  of 
Caithness,  as  might  be  expected  from  jts  position, 

^  The  Lord  of  the  Isles.        -  Iain  Dubh  Mac  Jain-Ic  Aileiu, 

DONALD    OF    HARLAW.  153 

was  from  an  early  period  subject  to  Norse  Influence, 
and  In  the  course  of  time  came  to  be  occupied  by  a 
population  largely  Norse  In  composition.  It  formed 
part  of  the  possessions  of  the  great  Norwegian  Jarls 
of  Orkney  from  the  beginning  of  the  10th  down  to 
the  end  of  the  12th  century.  The  district  of 
Strathnaver,  however,  which  formed  the  western 
portion  of  the  ancient  county  of  Caithness,  differed 
from  the  rest  of  that  region  not  only  by  reason  of 
Its  wild  and  mountainous  surface,  but  also  in  being 
the- abode  of  a  people  who,  amid  the  racial  changes 
that  took  place  In  that  time,  retained  their  Celtic 
blood  and  speech  largely  unafiected  by  Norwegian 
admixture.  The  most  powerful  clan  that  occupied 
this  portion  of  Caithness  at  the  beginning  of  the 
15th  century  was  the  Clan  Mackay.  It  Is  said  that 
at  that  time  Angus  Dubh  Mackay  could  bring  into 
the  field  4000  fighting  men.  The  news  of  Donald's 
march  through  Wester  Ross  having  penetrated  to 
far  Strathnaver,  Angus  Dubh  Mackay  determined 
to  oppose  the  progress  and  clip  the  wings  of  the 
Hebridean  eagle.  He  hastily  gathered  his  forces, 
said  to  have  been  2500  strong,  and  marching  to 
Dingwall,  arrived  just  as  the  Islesmen  were  seen 
approaching.  He  Immediately  assumed  the  ofien- 
slve,  but  failed  to  stem  the  tide  of  the  advancing 
force.  A  fierce  engagement  took  place,  in  which 
the  men  of  Caithness,  though  they  fought  with  the 
bravery  and  firmness  characteristic  of  the  Mackay 
clan,  were  routed.  Rory  Galld,  brother  of  the 
chief,  and  many  others  were  slain,  whilst  Angus 
Dubh  himself  was  taken  prisoner.  Macdonald  of 
the  Isles  having  taken  possession  of  the  Castle  of 
Dingwall  and  garrisoned  It,  resumed  his  march,  and 
proceeded  to  Inverness  by  Beauly.     At  the  latter 

154  THE    CLAN    DOxVALD. 

place  he  halted,  and  divertmg  his  line  of  march  he 
proceeded  to  Castle  Downie  and  administered  a 
well-merited  chastisement  to  the  Laird  of  Lovat 
and  his  Frasers,  who  had  the  temerity  to  oppose 
the  Island  Lord's  pretensions  to  the  Earldom  of 
E,oss.  Having  at  length  arrived  at  Inverness,  he 
planted  his  standard  in  the  Highland  Capital,  and 
summoned  all  the  fighting  men  of  Ross,  and  of  the 
North  generally,  to  his  banner.  The  summons  met 
with  a  wide  response  from  the  purely  Celtic  regions 
of  Scotland,  and  many,  emboldened  by  the  success 
that  already  attended  the  Island  Chief's  efforts, 
took  up  arms  to  support  his  cause. 

According  to  a  MS.  history  of  the  Mackenzies, 
quoted  in  the  Macdonald  Collections,  "  Murdoch 
Nichoil  Mackenzie  was  the  only  chief  in  the  North 
Hig-hlands  who  refused  assistance  to  Macdonald 
when  he  fought  against  the  Governoi-'s  forces  at 
Harlaw.  He  v^as  taken  prisoner  by  the  Earl  of 
Ross  at  Dingwall."^  The  Chief  of  the  Mackenzies 
was  at  this  time  of  so  little  consequence  that  it 
was  hardly  worth  while  keeping  him  in  "  durance 
vile"  during  the  absence  of  the  Island  Chief  at 
Harlaw.  But  he  was  not  the  only  chief  in  the 
North  who  opposed  Macdonald's  invasion  of  Ross. 
A  much  more  powerful  individual,  in  the  person  of 
the  Chief  of  the  Frasers,  had  not  only  endeavoured 
to  check  Donald's  progress  through  the  Earldom, 
but  afterwards  fought  against  him  at  Harlaw. 

No  sooner  had  Donald  mustered  the  full  force 
of  his  followers  than  he  launched  on  what  was 
apparently  a  fresh  enterprise.  Instead  of  standing 
on  the  defensive  and  guarding  what  he  had  gained, 
he  again  assumed  the  aggressive.     It  has  by  some 

^  Macdonald  Collections,  p.  1248.  -        .. 

DONALD    or    HARLAW.  155 

been  conjectured  that,  In  addition  to  the  invasion 
of  Ross,  there  was  another  and  more  ambitious 
plan  of  campaign  in  which  Donald  expected  to 
form  a  junction  with  his  English  allies.  If  this 
was  so,  and  we  can  only  speculate,  England's  own 
difl&culties  in  France  proved  Scotland's  friends  in 
need,  and  if  Donald  cherished  any  expectations  of 
southern  aid,  he  was  doomed  to  disappointment. 
Donald,  though  in  2:)ossession  of  the  Earldom  of 
Ross,  well  knew  that  he  was  not  to  be  left  long 
undisturbed  in  the  enjoyment  of  his  recent  acquisi- 
tion, and,  taking  time  by  the  forelock,  he  resolved 
to  push  his  way  eastwards  in  the  expectation  of 
swelling  his  ranks  as  he  proceeded,  and  thus  pre- 
senting such  a  formidable  and  imposing  appearance 
as  to  strike  terror  into  the  heart  of  the  opposing 
host.  Besides,  Donald,  in  the  course  of  his  quarrel 
with  the  Regent,  threatened  to  burn  the  town  of 
Aberdeen,  and  to  put  that  threat  into  execution 
was,  at  least,  one  motive  for  the  intended  invasion 
of  the  granite  city.  The  partial  or  total  burning 
of  the  town  of  Inverness,  in  which  the  famous 
oak  bridge  over  the  Ness  perished,  though  valiantly 
defended  by  a  stalwart  townsman  of  the  name  of 
Cumine,  and  the  ravages  committed  by  the  Island 
host  as  they  traversed  the  counties  of  Moray  and 
Aberdeen  ought,  without  any  hesitation,  to  be  taken 
with  a  very  large  grain  of  salt.  That  Donald  used 
the  weapons  at  his  disposal  to  advantage  may  well 
be  believed — those  weapons  that  at  that  time  were 
inseparable  from  and  incidental  to  the  fortunes  of 
war ;  but  the  fire  and  sword  with  which  he 
devastated  any  portion  of  the  large  district  of 
country  through  which  he  passed  were  not  used 
wantonly  or   merely  in   quest   of  plunder,   though 

156  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

that  was  always  acceptable  and  needful  for  the 
support  of  his  army,  but  largely  because  he  had 
not  received  the  accession  to  his  ranks  which  he 
anticipated  and  demanded. 

Three  weeks  of  July  of  the  year  1411  had  elapsed 
when  the  Highland  army,  which  cannot  be  estimated 
at  less  than  10,000  strong,  quitted  Inverness.  The 
Island  Lord  himself  commanded  the  main  body, 
which  was  composed  of  the  Isles-men,  including  the 
Macleods  of  Lewis  and  Harris  under  their  chiefs. 
The  right  wing  was  commanded  by  Hector  Maclean 
of  Duart,  commonly  known  as  Eachunn  Ruadh  nan 
Cath,  while  the  left  was  under  the  command  of  The 
Mackintosh.  John  Mor  Tainistear  of  Dunnyveg  led 
the  reserve.  When  the  news  arrived  in  Aberdeen 
that  Donald  and  his  host  were  on  their  way  to 
consign  the  town  to  the  flames,  the  panic  may  well 
be  conceived.  The  terror  which  the  approach  of  the 
Highlanders  struck  into  the  popular  mind  has  been 
reflected  in  the  ballad  poetry  of  the  country.  Scott, 
in  "  The  Antiquary,"  seems  to  have  caught  the 
spirit  of  the  time,  and  the  following  lines,  written, 
of  course,  from  the  Lowland  point  of  view,  show  that 
Donald  was  not  to  have  it  all  his  own  way  on  his 
memorable  march  towards  Harlaw  : — 

"  Now  haud  your  tongue,  both  wife  and  carle, 
And  listen,  great  and  sma', 
And  I  will  sing  of  Glenallan's  Earl 
That  fought  on  the  red  Harlaw. 

"  The  coronachs  cried  on  Benachie, 
And  doun  the  Don  and  a'. 
And  Hieland  an'  Lawland  may  mournfu'  be 
For  the  sair  field  of  Harlaw. 

"  They  saddled  a  hundred  milk  white  steeds, 
They  hae  bridled  a  hundred  black, 
With  a  chafron  of  steel  on  each  horse's  head, 
And  a  good  knight  upon  his  back. 


*'  They  hadna  ridden  a  mile,  a  mile, 
A  mile,  but  barely  ten, 
When  Donald  came  banking  down  the  brae 
Wi'  twenty  thousand  men. 

"  Their  tartans  they  were  waving  wide. 
Their  glaives  were  glancing  clear. 
Their  pibrochs  rung  frae  side  to  side. 
Would  deafen  ye  to  hear. 

"  The  great  Earl  in  his  stirrups  stood 
That  Highland  host  to  see  : 
Now  here  a  knight  that's  stout  and  good 
May  prove  a  jeopardie  : 

"  What  wouldst  thou  do,  my  squire  so  gay 
That  rides  beside  my  reyne. 
Were  ye  Glenallau's  Earl  the  day. 
And  I  were  Roland  Cheyne  ? 

"  To  turn  the  rein  were  sin  and  shame. 
To  fight  were  wondrous  peril. 
What  would  ye  do  now,  Roland  Cheyne, 
Were  ye  Glenallan's  Earl  ? 

"  Were  I  Glenallan's  Earl  this  tide. 
And  ye  were  Roland  Cheyne, 
The  spur  should  be  in  my  horse's  side 
And  the  bridle  upon  his  mane. 

"  If  they  hae  twenty  thousand  blades, 
And  we  twice  ten  times  ten, 
Yet  they  hae  but  their  tartan  plaids. 
And  we  are  mail-clad  men. 

"  My  horse  shall  ride  through  ranks  sae  rude, 
As  through  the  moorland  fern. 
Then  ne'er  let  the  gentle  Norman  blude 
Grow  cauld  for  Highland  kerne." 

The  chief  magnate  of  the  regions  of  Garioch  and 
Strathbogie  through  which  Donald  and  his  host 
advanced  was  Alexander  Stewart,  Earl  of  Mar,  the 
Glenallan's  Earl  of  Scott's  ballad,  and  it  is  a  remark- 

158  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

able  fact  that  as  the  quarrel  had  been  from  the 
outset  between  kinsfolk,  Donald's  career  was  destined 
to  be  interrupted  by  a  first  cousin  of  his  own.  The 
career  of  this  nobleman  is  an  interesting  chapter 
in  the  annals  of  that  wild  and  romantic  age,  a 
blending  together  of  the  lawlessness  and  chivalry  so 
characteristic  of  the  time.  In  early  life  he  had  been 
the  leader  of  a  band  of  freebooters  from  the  wilds 
of  Badenoch,  with  which  his  father,  the  notorious 
Wolf,  known  as  Alasdair  Mbr  Mac  an  Eigh,  was 
so  much  associated.  By  means  of  his  banditti,  he 
eventually  raised  himself  to  the  Earldom  of  Mar. 
Having  surprised  Sir  Robert  Drummond  of  Stobhill 
in  his  castle,  and  probably  hastened  his  end,  this 
freebooter  shortly  afterwards  took  captive  Sir 
Robert's  widow,  who  was  Countess  of  Mar  in  her 
own  right,  in  her  Castle  of  Kildrummie,  and  forced 
her  to  give  him  her  hand  in  marriage.  Subsequent 
events  seem  to  show  that  the  lady  was  not  unfor- 
giving in  her  resentment  at  the  conduct  of  this 
"  braw  wooer,"  although  his  fii^st  advances  were  none 
of  the  gentlest.  When  afterwards  he  appeared 
before  the  castle  gates,  placing  its  contents,  adjuncts, 
keys,  and  title-deeds,  at  her  disposal,  she  not  only 
received  him  as  her  husband,  but  conveyed  to  him 
the  earldom  with  all  its  wealth  and  dignities.  On 
her  death,  the  Earl,  inspired  by  the  knight-errantry 
of  the  time,  visited  foreign  lands  in  quest  of  adven- 
tures. Having  taken  part  in  the  Continental  wars 
of  the  period,  and  sown  his  political  wild  oats,  he 
returned  to  Scotland,  and  now  we  find  him  the 
chosen  leader  of  the  knights  and  burgesses  of  Aber- 
deen in  their  preparations  to  resist  the  advance  of 
the  men  of  the  Isles. 

bONALD    OF    HARLAW.  159 

The  battle  of  Harlaw  has  been  described  as  a 
critical  conflict  between  the  opposing  forces  of  civil 
order  and  barbarism,  Donald  has  been  pictured  as 
the  leader  of  plundering  bands  ;  Mar  as  the  repre- 
sentative of  civilised  virtue.  In  view  of  the  facts 
of  the  case,  we  can  hardly  accept  of  this  rough  and 
ready  classification.  The  feuds  of  the  Lowland 
barons,  the  fire  and  sword,  and  rapine,  which  they 
often  carried,  not  only  into  England,  but  into  each 
other's  domains,  are  quite  as  much  opposed  to  the 
laws  that  regulate  civilised  communities  as  the 
creachs  of  their  Highland  neighbours.  This  fact 
has  too  often  been  calmly  overlooked  by  the  writers 
of  Scottish  history.  No  doubt  there  are  very 
marked  difierences  between  the  forces  that  met  on 
the  field  of  Harlaw.  The  distinctions  between  Celtic 
and  feudal  Scotland  were  there  brought  out  into 
bold  relief.  Whether  the  one  was  a  higher  type  of 
culture  than  the  other  ;  whether  the  men-at-arms 
who  fought  in  a  panoply  of  mail,  with  spear  and 
battle  axe,  and  metal  shield,  were  more  refined 
specimens  of  the  human  race  than  the  plaided  and 
kilted  warriors  who  fought  with  claymore,  and  were 
protected  by  their  wooden  sliields,  may  be  a  matter 
of  opinion ;  but  the  one  type  is  not  further  removed 
than  the  other  from  the  civilisation  of  to-day. 

When  the  news  of  Macdonald's  march  through 
Moray  went  abroad,  the  gentlemen  of  Aberdeenshire, 
with  their  armed  retainers,  assembled  under  the 
leadership  of  the  Earl  of  Mar.  Mail-clad  mounted 
knights,  armed  to  the  teeth  after  the  manner  of 
Norman  chivalry,  the  number  of  which  is  not  easily 
determined,  but  generally  estimated  at  a  little  more 
than  a  thousand  men,  rode  off  to  meet  the  foe. 
Inferior  in  numbers  to  the  forces  of  the  Isles,  the 

160  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

disadvantage  was  heavily  discounted  by  the  com- 
pleteness of  their  equipment  and  their  strong 
defensive  armour.  Mar  advanced  by  Inverury,  and 
came  in  sight  of  the  Highland  army  at  the  village 
of  Harlaw,  some  ten  miles  from  the  county  town  of 
Aberdeen,  whither  had  flocked  to  his  standard  the 
gentlemen  of  Aberdeen,  Angus,  and  the  Mearns. 
The  Ogilvies,  the  Lindsays,  the  Carnegies,  the 
Lesleys,  the  Lyons,  the  Livings,  the  Gordons,  the 
Abercrombies,  the  Arbuthnots,  the  Bannermans, 
the  Leiths,  the  Douglases,  the  Barclays,  the 
Mowats,  the  Duguids,  the  Fotheringhams,  the 
Frasers,  and  the  Burnets — all  were  there  in  stern 
defence  of  hearth  and  home.  Mar  himself  com- 
manded the  main  body  of  his  small  force,  while  Sir 
Alexander  Ogilvie,  Sheriff  of  Angus,  and  Sir  James 
Scrymgeour,  Constable  of  Dundee,  led  the  van- 

Donald's  army,  consisting  chiefly  of  the  Macleans, 
the  Mackintoshes,  the  Camerons,  the  Mackinnons, 
the  Macleods,  and  all  the  vassals  of  the  lordship  of 
the  Isles,  was  drawn  up  in  imitation  of  the  old 
Pictish  mode,  in  the  cuneiform  order  of  battle.'' 
Donald  himself  commanded  the  main  body,  with  the 
Macleods  of  Lewis  and  Harris  as  his  lieutenants ; 
while  the  right  and  left  respectively  were  under  the 
command  of  Hector  Boy  Maclean  of  Duart  and 
Mackintosh.  John  Mor  Tainistear  stood  at  the  head 
of  the  reserve.  The  courage  of  the  men  of  the  Isles 
was  roused  to  the  most  patriotic  fervour  by  the 
stirring  appeal  of  MacYuirich,  the  Tyrtaeus  of  the 
campaign,  to  remember  the  ancient  valour  of  the 
race  of  Conn — • 

^  Logan's  Scottish  Gael,  Ed.  187G,  Vol.  I.,  p.  155. 

DONALD    OF    HARLAW.  161 

"  A  chlanna  Chuinn,  cuirnhnichibh, 

Cruas  an  am  na  h-iorghuill."  ^ 
"  Sons  of  Conn  remember 

Hardihood  in  time  of  strife." 

The  Highlanders,  armed  with  broadswords,  bows 
and  axes,  and  wooden  shields,  rushing  forward  with 
furious  onset  and  shouting  the  slogan  of  their  clan, 
were  received  by  the  Lowlanders  with  steadiness 
and  valour.  Sir  James  Scrymgeour,  Constable  of 
Dundee,  and  Sir  Alexander  Ogilvie,  Sheriff  of 
Angus,  who  with  a  band  of  knights  occupied  the 
van  of  the  Lowland  army,  endeavoured  to  cut 
their  way  through  the  Highland  columns  that  were 
bearing  down  upon  them  like  a  flood,  but  they  were 
soon  overwhelmed  and  slain.  In  other  parts  of  the 
field,  the  contest  raged  with  fury.  The  brave  Mar 
with  his  knights  fought  on  with  desperate  courage 
till  the  Lowland  army  was  reduced  to  a  skeleton  ; 
but  it  was  only  after  the  long  summer  day  had 
faded  away  at  last,  and  the  dark  curtain  of  night 
enfolded  the  blood-stained  field,  that  the  exhausted 
combatants  sheathed  their  blades.  The  Lowland 
army  was  annihilated,  and  the  flower  of  the  chivalry 
of  Angus  and  the  Mearns  lay  dead  upon  the  field  : — 

"  There  was  not  sin'  King  Kenneth's  days, 
Sic  strange,  intestine,  cruel  strife 
In  Scotlande  seen,  as  ilka  man  says^ — 
Where  monie  likelie  lost  their  life  ; 
Whilk  made  divorce  'tween  man  and  wife, 
And  monie  children  fatherless. 
And  monie  a  ane  will  mourn  for  aye. 
The  brime  battle  of  the  Harlaw." 

^  Prosnachidh-catha,  le  Lachlainn  M6r  Mac  Mhuirich  Albauaich,  do 
DhnmhnuU  a  He,  Righ  Innsegall,  latha  Oath  Ghariach.  This  exti-aordinary 
poem  is  given  in  full  in  the  Collection  of  the  Stewarts  only,  and  it  was  printed 
for  the  first  time  in  Ronald  Macdonald's  Collection  in  1776,  where  only  a  few 
lines  are  given. 

162  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

To  the  east  of  Scotland,  Harlaw  was  a  miniature 
Flodden,  and  the  wail  of  a  hundred  years  later  over 
that  bloody  field,  "  that  the  flowers  of  the  forest 
were  a'  wede  away,"  would  not  have  been  inappro- 
priate here.  On  Mar's  side,  according  to  the 
Lowland  chroniclers,  500  were  killed  and  many 
wounded.  Among  the  men  of  note  who  fell  were 
Sir  Alexander  Ogilvie,  Sheriff  of  Angus,  Sir  Thomas 
Murray,  Sir  James  Scrymgeour,  Sir  Alexander 
Irvine  of  Drum,  Sir  E-obert  Maule  of  Panmure, 
Sir  William  Abernethy  of  Salton,  Sir  Alexander 
Straiten  of  Lauriston,  Sir  Robert  Davidson,  Provost 
of  Aberdeen,  James  Level,  Alexander  Stirling,  and 
Lesley  of  Balquhain,  with  his  six  sons. 

On  Donald's  side  900  are  said  to  have  fallen, 
among  whom  were  Gilpatrick  MacBory  of  the 
Obeolan  family,  and  Lachlan  Macmillan,  who,  with 
Norman  and  Torquil  Macleod,  were  the  first  at  the 
head  of  their  men  to  charge  the  Lowland  host.^ 
Besides  these,  according  to  Hugh  Macdonald,  "  two 
or  three  gentlemen  of  the  name  of  Munroe  were 
slain,  together  with  the  son  of  Macquarry  of  Ulva, 
and  two  gentlemen  of  the  name  of  Cameron."^  The 
brave  Hector  Roy  Maclean  of  Duart  and  Irvine  of 
Drum  fought  hand  to  hand  until  they  both  fell 

Trustworthy  records  of  this  famous  fight  there 
are  none.  Lowland  historian  and  ballad  composer, 
as  well  as  Highland  seanachie,  described  what  they 
believed  must  and  should  have  happened.  Certain 
main  facts,  however,  we  are  assured  of  That  both 
sides  fought  with  valour  and  determination,  and 
that  Scotland  alone  was  capable  of  being  the  nursing 

MacVuirich  in  Reliquiae  Celticte,  p.  213. 
2  Hugh  Macdonald  in  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  301, 


mother  of  such  heroes,  may  well  kindle  the  pride  of 
Lowlander  and  Highlander  alike.  Yet  the  field  of 
Harlaw,  in  proportion  to  the  number  engaged  there, 
was  one  of  the  greatest  reverses  that  ever  befell  the 
Scots.  To  say  in  the  face  of  such  a  calamitous 
reverse  that  the  Lowland  army  was  victorious  at 
Harlaw,  as  some  historians  have  alleged,  is  to  be 
blind  to  the  most  obvious  facts.  It  is  admitted  on 
all  hands  that  Macdonald's  army  could  not  have 
been  under  10,000  strong.  Of  these,  according  to 
the  Lowland  estimate,  900  lay  dead  on  the  field, 
and  granting  that  as  many  more  lay  wounded, 
Donald's  force  when  the  fight  ceased  numbered  at 
least  8000  strong,  ready  to  renew  the  contest  with 
the  returning  day.  The  Earl  of  Mar  himself  lay 
covered  with  wounds  on  the  field.  Five  hundred  of 
his  small  force  lay  dead  around  him,  while  the 
remainder  of  his  army  lay  mostly  wounded,  and 
unable  to  renew  the  fight.  These  are  facts,  if  the 
Scottish  historians  are  to  be  believed,  but  the  con- 
clusions they  arrive  at  are  not  obvious,  and  cannot 
in  reason  be  justified.  That  Macdonald  of  the  Isles 
at  the  head  of  8000  clansmen,  or  even  half  that 
number,  retreated  in  dismay  before  a  wounded  leader 
lying  prostrate  on  the  field  of  battle  surrounded  by 
a  mere  handful  of  men,  most  of  whom  were  crippled 
with  wounds,  cannot  easily  be  believed  by  any 
unprejudiced  person.  If  Donald  ever  expected 
English  help,  he  now  realised  that  he  must  do 
without  it,  and  knowing  well  that  all  Lowland 
Scotland  was  arrayed  against  him,  he  judged  it  the 
wisest  policy  to  betake  himself  to  his  Island  fast- 
nesses. There  is  every  reason  to  believe  that  this 
was  his  main  motive  in  not  pursuing  his  campaign 
further  against  the  Duke  of  Albany,  while  at  the 

164  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

same  time  the  Island  Lord  must  have  experienced 
the  same  difficulty  which  confronted  Montrose, 
Dundee,  and  Prince  Charles,  in  after  times,  of 
keeping  a  Highland  army  gathered  from  widely 
scattered  districts  for  any  length  of  tim&  together 
in  the  field. 

The  Scottish  historians,  ignoring  all  such  con- 
siderations, and  bhnded  by  race  prejudice,  have 
inferred  from  the  retreat  that  followed  what  they 
call  a  drawn  battle  the  defeat  of  Macdonald  at 
Harlaw.  Very  different  accounts  of  the  famous 
engagement  are  given  both  by  the  Highland  and 
Irish  historians.  Hugh  Macdonald,  MacVurich,  and 
many  others,  refer  in  no  vague  terms  to  the  complete 
overthrow  of  the  Lowland  army  ;  while  the  High- 
land bards,  who  are  never  inspired  by  defeat, 
celebrate  the  victory  of  the  men  of  -the  Isles  in 
their  loftiest  strains.  The  Irish  Annals  are  no  less 
emphatic,  as  may  be  seen,  among  others,  from  the 
Annals  of  Loch  Ce  : — "  A  great  victory  by  Mac- 
dhomhaill  of  Alba  over  the  foreigners  of  Alba  ;  and 
MacGilla-Eoin  of  Macdonald's  was  slain  in  the 
counter  wounding  of  that  victory."^ 

The  battle  of  Harlaw  was  fought  on  the  26th  of 
June,  1411,  and  resulted,  as  we  have  seen,  in  well 
nigh  the  total  annihilation  of  the  Lowland  army. 

On  the  news  of  the  crushing  defeat  at  Harlaw 
reaching  the  ears  of  the  Regent  Albany,  he  made  an 
unusual  display  of  military  spirit  and  activity.  He 
resolved  without  delay  on  an  invasion  of  the  Earldom 
of  Ross,  and  putting  himself  at  the  head  of  a 
sufficiently  strong  force,  he  advanced  to  Dingwall, 
took  possession  of  the  castle,  and  established,  with- 
out  any   opposition,    his    authority   through    Ross. 

'  Annala  of  Loch  Co,  by  W.  M.  Heunessy,  1411.     Vol.  II.,  p.  137. 


Donald  and  his  clansmen  had  retired  to  their  Island 
strongholds.  Within  his  own  domains,  the  Island 
chief  was  impregnable,  for  his  naval  force  was 
superior  to  the  whole  Scottish  fleet  at  that  time. 
He  must,  however,  defend  his  mainland  territories, 
and  here  the  Regent,  who  determined  to  crush  his 
power  and  humble  the  Island  Lord,  had  his  ojopor- 
tunity.  In  the  following  year,  smarting  from  the 
humiliation  and  defeat  at  Harlaw,  Albany  resumed 
hostilities,  proceeded  at  the  head  of  an  army  to 
Argyle,  and  attacked  Donald  where  alone  he  could 
do  so  with  any  chance  of  success.  The  records  of 
the  period  are  very  obscure  as  to  the  fortunes  and 
reverses  alike  of  the  Regent's  campaign  against  the 
hero  of  Harlaw ;  but  subsequent  events  indicate 
very  clearly  that  Donald  held  his  own,  and  that 
Albany  was  baffled  in  the  effort  to  humble  him. 

The  story  of  the  treaty  with  the  Governor  at 
Polgilb,  now  Lochgilp,  where  we  find  Donald  coming 
forward  humbly,  laying  down  his  assumed  independ- 
ence, consenting  to  become  a  vassal  of  the  Scottish 
crown  (which  he  was  already — at  least  nominally), 
and  delivering  hostages  for  his  future  good  behaviour, 
is  given  on  the  authority  of  that  unreliable 
choronicler,  John  of  Fordun,  and  as  he  is  corrobo- 
rated by  no  authority  whatever,  but,  on  the 
contrary,  flatly  contradicted  by  subsequent  events, 
we  refuse  to  receive  it  as  anything  but  the  purest 
fable.  Such  a  treaty  would  undoubtedly  have 
been  looked  upon  as  an  event  of  national  import- 
ance, yet  the  national  records  are  dumb  regarding 
it.  No  contemporary  chronicler.  Highland  or  Low- 
land— if  we  omit  John  himself— records  this 
successful  termination  of  a  rebellion  so  formidable 
as  to  have  shaken  the  Scottish  State  to  its  very 

166  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

centre.  Both  In  the  Chamberlam  and  Exchequer 
KoUs  we  find  references  made  to  the  campaign  of 
Albany  against  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  in  Argyle,  but 
not  the  remotest  reference  is  made  to  the  alleged 
treaty  of  Polgilb.  What  we  find  is  the  complaint 
made  that  the  Governor  had  not  been  recouped 
for  conveying  an  army  to  Polgilb  against  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  for  his  expedition  to  Ross 
against  the  Caterans  for  the  tranquillity  of  the 
realm. ^  If  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  as  John  of 
Fordoun  would  have  us  believe,  had  surrendered 
at  Polgilb  and  given  hostages,  the  tone  of  the 
Scottish  Chamberlain  would  have  been  more  tri- 
umphant, and  direct  reference  would  have  been 
made  to  such  an  important  event.  Donald  well 
knew  he  could  not  take  j)ossession  of  the  Earldom 
of  Ross  against  all  Scotland,  and  that  he  had 
resolved  to  make  no  further  attempt  in  that 
direction  his  retreat  from  Harlaw  clearly  proves. 
His  position  in  the  Isles  was  too  strong  to  be 
successfully  attacked.  Why,  therefore,  should  he 
surrender  at  Polgilb  ?  The  fiction  may  be  placed 
side  by  side  with  that  other  fable  of  the  defeat, 
death,  and  burial  of  Donald  at  Harlaw,  where  his 
tomb  is  pointed  out  to  this  day ! 

Albany  undoubtedly  took  possession  of  the  Earl- 
dom of  Ross,  and  prevented  the  Lord  of  the  Isles 
from  pushing  his  claim  to  that  important  inheritance  ; 
but  Donald  held  undisputed  sway  to  the  day  of  his 
death  within  his  own  island  principality.  In  no 
sense  can  Donald  be  said  to  have  enjoyed  the 
Earldom  of  Ross,  save  during  those  weeks  when  he 

^  "  Neque  pro  expensis  suis  factis  cum  transitu  exercitus  semel  apucl 
Polgilb  contra  dominuni  Insularum,  et  una  alia  vice  apud  Rosse,  pro  pacifi- 
cacione  regni  contra  Ketheranos."— Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  IV.,  p.  213  ;  vol, 
IV.,  p.  239.     The  Chamberlain  Rolls,  14. 

DON"ALD   OF   HARLAW.  167 

invaded  and  occupied  the  district  by  force  of  arms. 
He  never  was,  and  never  could  have  been  de  jure, 
Earl  of  Boss.  The  Regent  carried  his  point.  In 
1415,  Euphemia  resigned  the  earldom  in  favour  of 
her  grandfather,  who  thereafter  conferred  it  on  his 
son,  John  Stewart,  Earl  of  Buchan. 

The  next  time  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  emerges  from 
his  retirement  is  in  a  domestic  quarrel  with  his 
brother,  John  Mor  Tainistear,  a  quarrel  which  seems 
to  have  assumed  a  formidable  appearance  from  the 
array  of  neighbouring  clans  that  appear  on  either 
side.  The  cause  of  the  quarrel  seems  to  have  arisen 
from  differences  over  some  lands  in  Kin  tyre,  claimed 
by  John  Mor  as  his  share  of  his  father's  patrimony. 
The  real  instigator  was  the  Abbot  Mackinnon,  who, 
from  his  position  as  a  churchman,  was  a  man  of  con- 
siderable influence  in  Argyle,  and  with  whose  family 
John  Mor's  own  relationship  was  none  of  the  purest, 
if  the  historian  of  Sleat  is  to  be  believed.  Maclean 
and  Macleod  of  Harris  espoused  the  cause  of  John 
Mor,  while  Donald  was  supported  by  Macleod 
of  Lewis,  the  Mackintoshes,  and  other  vassals 
of  the  Isles.  The  issue  was  not  for  a  moment 
doubtful.  John  Mor  was  defeated,  and,  passing  into 
Galloway,  where  Donald  pursued  him,  he  found  his 
way  to  Ireland,  and  took  refuge  in  the  Antrim  glens. 
He  and  his  brother  Donald,  however,  were  shortly 
thereafter  reconciled.-^ 

The  hero  of  Harlaw  now  passes  finally  from  the 
public  gaze,  and,  joining  one  of  the  religious  orders, 
lie  finds  solace  for  his  declining  years  in  the  exercise 
of  quiet  religious  duties.  The  main  features  of  his 
character  have  ah-eady  passed  under  review.  He 
stands  before  us,  if  not  the  greatest  in  a  long  line  of 

^  Hugh  Macdonald  in  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  303. 

1^8  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

distinguished  chiefs  of  his  family,  a  powerful  and 
impressive  personality,  a  leader  who  sustained  the 
best  traditions  of  the  Clan  Cholla,  and  who  kept 
untarnished,  in  peace  and  war,  in  the  senate  and  in 
the  field,  the  name  and  fame  of  Macdonald.  By  far 
the  most  powerful  nobleman  in  the  realm,  both  from 
the  extent  of  his  immense  territories  and  the  influ- 
ence he  exercised  over  his  many  vassals  in  the  Isles 
and  on  the  mainland,  Donald  also  possessed  the 
qualities  of  a  statesman.  He  entered  into  repeated 
alliances  with  England.  In  the  year  1389,  among 
the  allies  of  that  country,  consisting  of  several 
foreign  princes  and  others,  we  find  the  name  of 
Donald,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  commissions  at 
difierent  times  are  issued  by  the  English  Kings  to 
treat  with  the  Island  Chief  on  the  footing  of  an 
independent  prince.  Some  authorities  affirm  that 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles  died  in  France  in  the  year 
1427,  but  these  go  on  the  assumption  that  Donald 
was  Earl  of  Pvoss.  The  Earl  of  Ross  who  died  in 
France  in  that  year,  having  been  killed  at  the  battle 
of  Verneuil,  was  John  Stewart,  Earl  of  Buchan,  on 
whom  the  Earldom  of  Boss  was  conferred  on  the 
resignation  of  Euphemia  Lesley,  in  1415.  We  have 
already  assumed  that  the  second  marriage  of  John, 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  took  place  about  the  year  1358, 
and  that  he,  the  eldest  son  of  that  marriage,  men- 
tioned in  the  treaty  of  1369,  must  have  been  ten 
years  of  age  when  in  that  year  he  was  given  as  a 
hostage  to  David  II.  The  year  of  Donald's  death  is 
somewhat  uncertain,  though  1423  seems  approxi- 
mately correct.  If  this  is  so,  he  must  have  attained 
to  the  age  of  64  when  he  died.  He  breathed  his 
last  at  his  Castle  of  Ardthornish  in  Morven,  and  was 
buried  with  befitting  pomp  and  solemnity  in  the 
tomb  of  his  ancestors  at  lona. 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  169 


ALEXANDER  DE  ILE,  EARL  OF  ROSS.— 1425-1449. 

Alexander's  Accession  to  the  Lordship. — James  L  returns. — 
Earldom  of  Ross  in  the  Crown. — James  L  visits  Inverness. — 
Convention. — State  of  Highlands. — Murder  of  John  Mor. — 
Dispute  about  Garmoran. — Murder  of  Alexander  MacGorrie. — 
Imprisonment  of  Lord  of  Isles.  —His  Liberation.— His  Revolt. 
— Surrender  at  Holyrood.  —  Captivity  in  Tantallon,  Inver- 
lochy. — Release  of  Alexander. — Miu'der  of  James  I. — Alex- 
ander receives  the  Earldom. — Appointed  Justiciar. — Favours 
to  Mackintosh. — Death  of  Alexander, — His  Character. 

Alexander  of  Isla,  Donald's  eldest  son,  succeeded 
on  his  father's  death  to  the  dignities  and  possessions 
of  his  house.  Donald's  heroic  effort  to  secure  the 
Earldom  of  Ross  as  the  lawful  inheritance  of  his 
wife  did  not  meet  with  complete  success,  and 
although  the  Sleat  historian  strives  to  make  it 
appear  otherwise,  the  testimony  of  all  the  most 
undoubted  authorities  is  at  issue  with  him.  The 
Earldom,  which,  after  Euphemia's  resignation,  was 
bestowed  by  the  Regent  upon  his  son,  the  Earl  of 
Buchan,  fell  vacant  again  in  1424,  upon  the  fall  of 
that  nobleman  at  the  fateful  battle  of  Verneuil,  and 
thereupon  reverted  to  the  Crown.  Indeed,  many 
years  were  to  elapse  before  the  rightful  heir  of  the 
Earldom  was  to  be  invested  with  the  position  for 
which  so  much  blood  had  been  shed  on  the  memor- 
able field  of  Harlaw. 

In  1424,  an  event  fraught  with  much  importance 
to   general   Scottish   history   took   place.      On   the 

170  THE   CLA^   DONALD. 

death  of  Robert,  Duke  of  Albany,  in  1420,  he  was 
succeeded  m  the  Eegency  of  the  Kingdom  by  his 
son  Murdoch.  A  man  of  feeble  capacity  for  rule,  he 
proved  utterly  unable  to  control  the  turbulent  spirits 
of  the  time,  and  the  government  of  the  country 
gradually  subsided  into  utter  anarchy.  At  last,  in 
despair  at  the  political  chaos  for  which  his  own  sons 
were  so  largely  responsible,  Murdoch  entered,  with 
some  degree  of  earnestness,  into  the  negotiations  for 
the  young  King's  ransom,  with  the  final  result  that 
James  was  released  from  captivity  in  England,  and 
restored  to  his  ancestral  throne. 

It  has  been  alleged  by  historians,  notably  by 
Gregory,  that  one  of  the  earliest  acts  of  James'  reign 
was  to  restore  the  Earldom  of  Ross  to  the  heiress  of 
line,  the  mother  of  Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles.  In 
proof  of  this,  reference  is  made  to  what  is  certainly 
recorded,  that  in  1426  Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles 
and  Master  of  Ross,  was  one  of  the  "  assiers"  that  con- 
demned the  Regent,  his  two  sons,  and  the  Earl  of 
Lennox  to  death.^  It  is  also  on  record  that,  in  1427, 
Alexander  of  Yle,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in  a  charter 
dated  at  the  island  of  Saint  Finlaggan  in  Yle,  and 
also  in  another  charter  bestowing  a  grant  of  the 
lands  of  Barra  and  of  Boisdale  in  South  Uist  on 
his  "  alumpnus  and  armiger,"  Gilleownan,  one  of 
the  family  of  Macneill,  calls  himself  Master  of  Ross.^ 
From  these  references,  it  has  not  unnaturally  been 
inferred  that  the  mother  of  Alexander,  "  Lady  Mary 
of  the  Yles  and  of  Rosse,"  had  been  invested  by  the 
Crown  with  her  hereditary  rights  and  honours,  and 
that  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  had  been  duly  acknow- 
ledged as  heir  apparent  to  the  Earldom  of  Ross. 
Yet    the    historical    references    in    question   prove 

^  Balfour's  Annala  of  Scotland.        ^  Oj.jg_  pg^^.^  g^j^j.^ 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  171 

nothing  beyond  the  fact  that  Alexander  styled 
himself  Master  of  Eoss,  and  that  he  received  the 
title  as  a  matter  of  courtesy.  Nothing  can  be 
clearer,  as  we  shall  hereafter  show,  than  the  tenure 
by  the  Crown  of  the  powers  and  privileges  of  the 
Earldom  at  a  much  later  date  than  1426.  Still, 
Lady  Mary  of  the  Isles  had  every  right  in  law 
and  equity  to  the  Earldom,  so  long  as  she  lived, 
with  reversion  to  her  heir,  and  the  continued 
assumption  of  its  rights  and  functions  by  the 
Crown  was  rightly  considered  an  illegal  usurpation. 
Hence,  despite  the  action  of  the  King,  the  Lord  of 
the  Isles  and  his  mother  seem  to  have  laid  claim, 
at  anyrate  to  the  titles  of  the  Earldom,  during  the 
reign  of  James  I.  Whether  the  more  substantial 
interests  involved  accrued  to  them,  in  whole  or  in 
part,  is  a  question  that  we  purpose  considering  at  a 
later  stage. 

Alexander's  position  on  the  jury,  before  which 
so  many  of  the  Scottish  nobles  were  arraigned  for 
treason  in  1426,  appears  to  suggest  a  certain  measure 
of  royal  favour.  It  was  not  long,  however,  before 
his  relations  to  the  Crown  underwent  a  complete 
revolution.  The  storm-cloud  had  been  gathering 
in  the  Highlands,  was  assuming  darker  and  more 
ominous  hues,  and  was  soon  to  burst  in  fury,  bringing 
disaster  and  desolation  in  its  train.  James  had 
devoted  the  first  two  years  of  his  reign  to  the 
reduction  of  the  lawlessness  which  had  so  widely 
prevailed  in  the  southern  regions  of  his  kingdom, 
and  already  a  measure  of  tranquillity  had  ensued. 
Now,  in  1427,  he  turned  his  attention  to  the  High- 
lands, which,  during  the  late  corrupt  administration, 
had  lapsed  into  a  state  of  virtual  independence.  The 
bonds  of  sovereignty  had  been  dissolved,  and  every 

172  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

man  did  that  which  was  good  in  his  own  eyes. 
James  I.  was  undoubtedly  one  of  the  ablest  states- 
men that  ever  occupied  the  throne  of  Scotland.  Tlie 
main  lines  of  his  policy,  which  he  handed  on  to  his 
successor,  were  absolutely  indispensable  for  the 
general  welfare  of  the  realm.  The  keynote  of  that 
policy  was  to  curb  the  dangerous  and  increasing 
power  of  the  nobility,  and  it  is  evident  that  the 
vindication  of  the  sovereign  authority  as  supreme  in 
the  State  was,  in  those  days,  the  only  guarantee  for 
the  maintenance  of  law,  order,  and  individual  liberty 
among  all  classes  of  the  people.  The  struggle  of  the 
Crown  with  those  great  nobles,  who  in  their 
own  districts  exercised  power  that  was  well  nigh 
unlimited,  is  the  explanation  of  much  of  the  civil 
discord  that  prevailed  in  Scotland  during  the 
fifteenth  century.  While  the  policy  of  James  I. 
was  thus  in  its  main  design  well  conceived,  yet  it 
is  plain  that,  in  applying  his  remedies  to  the 
diseases  of  the  body  politic,  he  displayed  a  harshness, 
as  well  as  impatience,  which  sometimes  defeated  the 
ends  he  had  in  view,  and  proved,  eventually,  the 
cause  of  his  tragic  fate.  Hence  it  was  that  his 
palliatives,  instead  of  soothing  at  all  times  the 
unhealthy  social  organism,  sometimes  produced  an 
unwholesome  and  dangerous  irritation.  The  effects 
of  a  long  period  of  misrule  were  not  to  be  cured  in  a 
day.  The  Herculean  task  of  cleansing  the  political 
Augean  stables  was  one  that  demanded  the  exercise 
of  patience  as  well  as  energy. 

After  the  battle  of  Harlaw,  the  Castle  of  Inver- 
ness, which,  from  its  position,  lay  peculiarly  exposed 
to  hostile  operations,  had  been  fortified  and  recon- 
structed on  a  larger  scale  than  before  under  the 
supervision  of  the  Earl  of  Mar.     In  1427  it  played 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  173 

an  important  part  in  the  royal  policy  of  Reform. 
In  this  the  third  year  of  his  reign,  James  marched 
to  Inverness  at  the  head  of  a  formidable  army,  and 
accompanied  by  the  leading  Lowland  barons.  There 
he  convened  a  Parliament,  and  summoned  the  Crown 
vassals  and  others  to  be  present.  The  citation  met 
with  a  large  response.  From  the  far  north  came 
Angus  Dubh  Mackay,  who  in  1411  unsuccessfully 
opposed  Donald  of  the  Isles  at  Dingwall,  but  who 
was  the  most  powerful  chief  in  the  Celtic  region  of 
Caithness,  and  a  leader  of  4000  men.  Kenneth 
Mor  Mackenzie,  a  leader  of  2000  men,  with  his  son-in- 
law,  John  Koss,  WilHam  Leslie,  Angus  de  Moravia, 
and  Matheson,  leaders  of  2000  men,  likewise 
responded  to  the  call.  From  Argyllshire  came  John 
Macarthur  of  the  family  of  Campbell,  the  leader  of 
1000  men,  and  James  Campbell,  to  the  place  of 
rendezvous.  The  principal  leaders  of  the  Clan 
Donald,  Alexander  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  Alexander 
MacGorrie  of  Garmoran,  obedient  to  the  King's 
citation,^  came  also  to  this  convention,  which  was 
destined  to  leave  its  mark  upon  the  general  history 
of  the  Highlands,  but  esi^ecially  upon  the  annals  of 
the  Family  of  the  Isles. 

There  is  much  obscurity,  it  is  needless  to  say, 
resting  upon  the  history  of  these  years,  and  the 
influences  that  determined  the  conduct  of  the  King 
in  the  events  that  followed  the  Parliament  of  Inver- 
ness are  far  from  being  easy  to  gauge.  Some  clues, 
however,  we  do  possess  which  seem  to  lead  us  to  a 
certain  extent  through  the  labyrinth  of  confusion, 
anarchy,  and  treachery  which  are  characteristic  of 
the  time,  and  explain  the  political  convulsion  into 
which  the  Western  Highlands  were  plunged.     The 

'■  Fordun. 

174  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

first  and  most  important  of  the  causes  productive  of 
this  state  of  matters  was  the  murder  of  John  Mor 
Tainistear,  the  founder  of  the  family  of  Dunnyveg 
and  the  Glens,  whom  even  Buchanan,  that  sweeping 
denunciator  of  the  Highland  Chiefs,  speaks  of  as  a 
man  illustrious  among  his  own  countrymen.^  John 
Mor's  death  was  the  tragic  culmination  of  a  series  of 
intrigues  promoted  by  the  courtiers  of  King  James, 
and  apparently  winked  at  by  royalty  itself  The 
hungry  Scottish  barons  who  shaped  "the  whisper  of 
the  throne "  were  jealous,  many  of  them,  of  the 
power  and  independence  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles, 
and,  instigated  by  their  counsels,  James  resolved  to 
curb  and  break  the  power  of  Alexander,  who  doubt- 
less by  this  time  was  manifesting  a  very  natural 
impatience  at  his  mother's  prolonged  exclusion  from 
the  earldom  of  Boss.  He  further  resolved  to  take 
John  Mor  into  his  confidence,  with  the  view  of 
investing  him  with  the  territories  of  which  he 
decided  to  deprive  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  ostensibly 
on  the  ground  that  John,  being  Alexander's  uncle, 
was  more  nearly  akin,  by  blood,  to  the  Crown.^  The 
Lord  of  Dunnyveg  did  not  entertain  the  proposals 
favourably,  and  an  individual  of  the  name  of  James 
Campbell  is  said  to  have  received  a  commission  from 
the  King  to  arrest  him  under  cover  of  a  friendly 
interview.  Whatever  the  powers  granted  under 
this  commission,  whether  Campbell  received  instruc- 
tions to  perpetrate  the  bloody  deed  that  followed 
or  not,  certain  is  it  that  John  Mor  was  the  victim 
of  the  blackest  and  most  abominable  treachery.  He 
received  a  message  from  the  King's  delegate  to  meet 
him  in  peaceful  guise  at  Ard  Dubh  point  in  Isla,  for 
the  purpose  of  communicating  the  royal  pleasure. 

^  Rerum  Scoticorum  Historia,  Liber  X.  cap.  XXX. 
'^  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis. 

ALEXANDER   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  175 

John  Mor  came  to  the  place  of  meeting  attended  by 
a  slender  retinue,  and  in  the  course  of  the  interview- 
was  attacked,  overpowered,  and  slain. ^  It  was  a 
shameful  and  most  villainous  deed,  and  it  is  to  be 
feared  that  the  King's  hands  were  not  altogether 
innocent  of  the  blood  that  had  been  shed.  Sub- 
sequent events  do  not  clear  him  of  the  suspicion 
of  treacherous  conduct,  and  there  is  strong  reason 
to  believe  that,  while  the  King's  orders  were  vague 
and  undefined,  his  commissioner  only  too  well 
understood  the  spirit  and  purpose  of  his  instruc- 
tions. In  Campbell  he  found  a  willing  instrument 
ready  to  his  hand,  and  it  is  to  be  noted  that  now 
for  the  first  time  there  fell  athwart  the  path  of 
the  Family  of  the  Isles  the  shadow  of  that  ill- 
omened  house  which  was  to  be  its  evil  genius  in 
time  to  come. 

The  murder  of  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  caused 
deep  resentment  among  many  powerful  Scottish 
families,  and  the  King's  policy  was  not  so  generally 
popular  that  he  could  afibrd  to  incur  the  odium 
which  it  undoubtedly  entailed.  Especially  through- 
out the  Highlands  were  feelings  of  the  deepest 
resentment,  accompanied  by  a  desire  for  vengeance, 
aroused,  and  the  confusions  of  the  time  became 
worse  confounded  by  the  spirit  of  antagonism  to  the 
throne,  which  the  dark  suspicions  that  fell  upon  the 
King,  evoked.  The  King  protested  that  he  had  not 
planned  the  murder,  and  had  the  assassin  tried  for 
his  life,  while  Campbell  continued  to  assert  that, 
though  not  possessed  of  written  instructions,  he  had 
the  royal  authority  for  what  took  place.  These 
were  among  the  leading  circumstances  which,  on 
account  of  the  turmoil  they  created  in  the  High- 

1  Hugh  Macdonald's  MS.     Balfour's  Annals,  Vol,  I,,  p.  157, 

176  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

lands,  led  to    James'  march  to  Inverness,   and  his 
summoning  a  convention  of  the  Highland  chiefs. 

This,  however,  was  not  all.  John  Macarthur, 
another  scion  of  the  House  of  Campbell,  had  taken 
the  opportunity  afforded  by  the  unsettled  condition 
of  the  country  to  advance  a  claim  to  a  portion  of 
the  lands  of  Garmoran  and  the  North  Isles.  His 
pretensions  to  these  territories  were  based  upon 
a  charter  by  Christina,  daughter  of  Allan  MacRuari, 
to  Arthur,  son  of  Sir  Arthur  Campbell,  Knight, 
early  in  the  fourteenth  century.^  Christina, 
being  her  father's  heir,  was  acting  within  her 
legal  rights  in  this  disposition  of  the  lands  in 
question ;  but  what  her  reasons  were  for  putting 
them  past  her  brother  Roderick,  who,  though  not 
feudally  legitimate,  she  made  her  heir  for  the  rest 
of  her  property,  is  a  question  which,  at  this  time  of 
day,  it  is  impossible  to  answer.  Whatever  validity 
such  an  instrument  may  have  possessed,  whether  it 
received  the  necessary  royal  confirmation  or  not,  it 
is  clear  that  several  conveyances  of  the  lands  in 
question  had  taken  place  since  the  days  of  Christina, 
and  that  any  claim  founded  upon  her  charter  must 
have  been  of  the  most  shadowy  and  baseless  descrip- 
tion. The  occupier  of  Garmoran  in  1427  was 
Alexander  MacGorrie,  according  to  Skene,  and 
Gregory,  the  son,  but  more  probably  the  grandson, 
of  Godfrey,  son  of  John  of  Isla.^  The  Clan  Gorrie 
had,  apparently,  still  the  ascendancy  over  the 
progeny  of  Reginald,  and,  whether  by  right  or  by 

^  Arthuro  Campbell  filio  Domini  Arthuris  militis  de  terra  de  Muddeward 
Ariseg  et  Morderer  et  iusulis  de  Egg  et  Rumrae  et  pertenari. 

^  According  to  Buchanan  and  others,  his  surname  was  MacReury,  the 
patronymic  of  Amy,  John  of  Isla's  first  wife.  According  to  Fordun,  he  was 
MacGorrie,  this  latter  palrouymic  having  been  used  for  several  generations  as  a 
surname  by  Godfrey's  descendants.  There  is  no  Alexander,  son  of  Godfrey,  in 
any  of  the  genealogies. 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  177 

the  Strong  hand,  were  in  possession  of  Garmoran  and 
the  Castle  of  EUantirrim,  which  had  been  seized  by 
Godfrey  in  1389.  Alexander,  the  representative  of 
the  family  in  the  year  of  the  Inverness  Convention, 
was  a  leader  of  2000  men,  and  would  be  very 
unlikely  tamely  to  submit  to  any  aggressive  action 
which  the  Macarthur  claimant  might  be  disposed  to 
take.  Attempts  at  possession  on  the  one  hand  and 
vigorous  resistance  on  the  other  would,  during  the 
late  discredited  administration,  lead  to  a  state  of 
continued  disorder  in  the  regions  of  North  Argyll. 
All  this  must  have  been  aggravated  by  the  feud  which 
undoubtedly  existed  between  the  Clan  Ranald  and 
the  Clan  Godfrey  as  to  the  occupancy  of  the  vast 
region  conferred  upon  and  confirmed  to  Reginald 
and  his  descendants  in  1373.  In  view  of  the  fore- 
going circumstances,  of  which  the  scant  annals  of  the 
time  give  us  but  intermittent  glimpses,  there  were 
rich  possibilities  of  feud  and  bloodshed,  and  it  is 
certain  that  the  social  system  of  the  Highlands 
presented  a  scene  of  wild  and  chronic  dispeace 
demanding  the  serious  attention  of  the  Crown. 

The  events  that  took  place  in  connection  with  the 
King's  visit  to  Inverness  cannot  very  well  be  esti- 
mated apart  from  more  complete  information  than  is 
at  the  historian's  disposal.  Yet,  so  far  as  we  can  see, 
the  proceedings  that  were  conducted  under  the  royal 
authority  are  incapable  of  justification  upon  any  code 
of  ethics.  They  bring  out  the  character  of  James  I.  in 
an  aspect  of  meanness  and  deceit  unbecoming  in  any 
one,  but  particularly  so  in  a  King,  and  leave  a  dark 
and  ineffaceable  stain  upon  the  history  of  his  reign. 
These  Highland  chiefs  came  as  they  were  summoned 
to  a  free  and  open  convention  of  the  nobles  of  the 
north,   trusting   to   the    faith    and    honour   of   his 


178  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Majesty.  As  the  event  shows,  the  confidence  was 
misplaced.  On  their  arrival  at  Inverness,  they  were 
all  immediately  apprehended.  Some  were  led  to 
prison,  each  being  immured  in  a  separate  apartment, 
while  others  became  the  victims  of  a  judicial  butchery 
which  has  few  parallels  in  Scottish  history.  The 
King  is  said  to  have  chuckled  at  the  success  of  his 
most  unkingly  manoeuvre,  and  to  have  given  vent  to 
his  satisfaction  in  a  Latin  couplet  ex  tempore,  which 
Scott  thus  freely  translates  : — 

"  To  donjon  tower  let  the  rude  troop  be  driven, 
For  death  they  merit  by  the  cross  of  heaven."  ^ 

James  Campbell  justly  expiated  his  crime,  but  the 
slaughter  of  Alexander  MacGorrie  of  Garmoran,^  along 
with  others,  seems,  in  the  absence  of  any  evidence  of 
guilt,  and  without  the  vestige  oi  a  trial,  a  monstrous 
exercise  of  royal  power. 

The  foregoing  incidents  must  have  powerfully 
affected  the  relations  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  to  the 
Crown.  The  murder  of  his  uncle,  John  Mor,  Lord 
of  Dunnyveg,  and  of  his  cousin,  Alexander  of  Gar- 
moran,  must  have  created  the  deepest  indignation  in 
the  breast  of  the  Island  Lord,  and  would  have  aggra- 
vated his  previous  discontent  and  displeasure  at  his 
own  continued  deprivation  of  the  Earldom  of  Ross. 
History  does  not  clearly  record  his  share  in  the 
troublous  times  prior  to  the  convention  of  Inverness  ; 
but,  judging  from  Alexander's  character  and  subse- 
quent conduct,  it  is  safe  to  say  that  his  attitude 
would  not  have  been  passive.  Little  is  definitely 
known  beyond  the  fact  that  the  Lord  of  the  Isles 

^  This  couplet,  according  to  Forduu,  ran  :  - 

"  Ad  turrem  forteni  ducamus  caute  cohortem 
Per  Christi  sortem  meruerunt  hi  quia  mortem," 
^  Balfour's  Annals  of  Scotland. 

ALEXANDER   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  179 

and  his  mother,  the  titular  Countess  of  Ross,  were 
among  the  Highland  potentates  or,  as  Burton  would 
style  them,  the  "  beasts  of  prey,"  whom  the  King 
entrapped  and  incarcerated  at  Inverness. 

One  of  the  Scottish  chroniclers  tells  us  that 
Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  was  the  "  fomentor 
and  foster  father"  of  the  northern  rebellion,  while 
"Angus  Duffe,  Kenneth  Moire,  John  Robe,  Alexander 
Mackmurkine,  and  Alexander  Macrorey,"  are  char- 
acterised as  "  his  gray  hondes,"^  Whether  the 
relation  of  Alexander  of  Isla  to  the  Highland 
chiefs  whose  names  are  quoted  was  of  a  nature 
to  justify  the  canine  simile,  there  is  not  sufficient 
evidence  to  show  ;  but  it  is  clear  that  the  Royal 
policy  towards  the  Highlands  at  this  juncture  was 
not  of  a  nature  to  mitigate  the  widespread  disorder 
that  had  reigned  for  so  long  a  period. 

James  I.  is  not  without  his  defenders  in  the 
bloody  and  treacherous  policy  of  1427.  Burton, 
whose  calmness  at  once  deserts  him  when  he  treads 
the  heather,  justifies  the  King  in  the  somewhat 
savage  remark  "  that  there  was  no  more  notion  of 
keeping  faith  with  the  Irishry,  whether  of  Ireland 
or  Scotland,  than  with  the  beast  of  prey  lured  to  its 
trap."  A  sentiment  of  this  nature  cannot  be  seri- 
ously regarded  save  as  a  melancholy  instance 
of  Lowland  prejudice  and  racial  rancour.  The 
perusal  of  such  I'emarks  is  irritating  to  the  Celtic 
mind,  but  as  an  illustration  of  the  falsehood  of 
extremes  we  can  afford  to  pass  them  by. 

The  Lord  of  the  Isles  was  not  detained  in 
custody  at  this  time  for  more  than  a  couple  of 
months.  He  had  to  accompany  the  King  from 
Inverness  to  Perth,  where,  on  the  1st  March,  1427, 

^  3alfour's  Annals  of  Scotland,  vol.  L,  p.  157. 

180  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

in  presence  of  the  whole  estates  of  the  realm,  he  is 
said  to  have  received  a  royal  admonition  as  regards 
his  past  delinquencies,  but  on  promise  of  amendment 
was  restored  to  favour  and  set  at  liberty.  It  is 
also  said  that  his  mother  was  retained  as  a  hostage 
for  his  loyalty  in  the  island  of  Inchcolm,  in  the 
Firth  of  Forth.^ 

It  was  not  to  be  expected  that,  after  the  extra- 
ordinary events  of  1427,  matters  were  to  settle 
down  in  the  Highlands,  as  if  neither  cruelty  nor 
treachery  had  been  enacted  in  the  name  of  justice. 
The  King  found  that  his  methods  of  dealing  with 
a  proud  and  independent  people  were  not  conducive 
to  the  promotion  of  peace,  and  the  embers  of  dis- 
affection which  he  had  sought  to  remove  were 
fanned  into  the  hot  flame  of  rebellion.  It  was 
hardly  to  be  expected  also  that  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  should  immediately  forget  the  treatment  to 
which  he  himself  had  been  subjected,  or  the  ruthless 
slaughter  of  his  relatives,  which  had  recently  taken 
place.  Events  proved  that  his  countrymen  and 
vassals  sympathised  with  him.  No  sooner  did  he 
return  to  his  island  territories  than  the  standard 
of  revolt  was  at  once  unfurled.  Collecting  10,000 
men  from  the  Isles  and  from  the  earldom  of  Hoss, 
he  invaded  the  mainland  of  Scotland  in  1429.  The 
district  of  Lochaber,  the  country  of  Alastair  Carrach, 
seems  to  have  been  the  headquarters  of  the  Lords 
of  the  Isles — at  any  rate  of  Alexander  and  his 
successor — when  engaged  in  warlike  operations 
on  the  mainland.  With  Lochaber  as  the  basis 
of  his  movements,  Alexander  marched  to  Inver- 
ness— a  town  which  on  all  such  occasions  received 
the  unwelcome  attentions  of  the  fierce  warriors  from 

^  Balfour's  Annala  of  Scotland,  pp.  157-8. 

ALEXANDER   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  181 

the  West.  Alexander,  after  the  manner  of  his 
father,  consigned  Inverness  to  the  flames,  wasted 
the  crown  lands  in  its  neighbourhood,  and  thus 
avenged,  to  some  extent,  the  indignity  he  had 
suffered,  and  the  oppressive  deeds  that  had  been 
perpetrated  two  years  previously  within  its  walls.-^ 

The  Lord  of  the  Isles  found,  however,  that  he 
had  measured  himself  against  a  King  who,  whatever 
had  been  the  blunders  and  faults  of  his  administra- 
tion, was  prompt  and  vigorous  in  action  as  he  was 
on  many  occasions  wise  and  prudent  in  counsel. 
Thus  it  was  that,  having  failed  to  storm  the  Castle 
of  Inverness,  and  having  retired  into  Lochaber, 
Alexander  soon  found  himself  pursued  by  the 
King's  army.  The  circumstances  were  of  a  nature 
to  render  defeat  inevitable,  Even  before  retiring 
from  the  siege  of  Inverness  it  was  found  that  the 
rapid  approach  of  the  royal  army  was  followed  by 
disaffection  among  the  Camerons  and  Mackintoshes, 
the  two  most  powerful  vassals  of  the  Isles.  In 
Lochaber  the  situation  became  desperate  when  the 
disaffected  clans  deserted  and  ranged  themselves 
under  the  royal  standard.  After  this  the  King's 
vigorous  attack  was  impossible  to  resist  successfully, 
and  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  was  constrained  to  sue 
for  peace.  The  King  insisted  on  an  unconditional 
surrender,  but  Alexander  was  not,  at  the  outset, 
disposed  to  accede  to  terms  so  extreme. 

The  character  and  sequence  of  the  events  that 
followed  are  far  from  clear.  Aecording  to  Buchanan,^ 
Alexander  retired  to  the  Isles,  and  meditated  flight 
to  the  north  of  Ireland,  where  Donald  Balloch,  son 

^  Testimony  to  this  is  borne  by  the  Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  IV.,  p.  416,  as 
follows  : — "  pro  combustione  clicti  burgi  per  Dooiiuum  lusularuni  reoellem 
domini  regis  £58  Ss." 

'  Lib,  X.,  32.     Rerum  Scoticarum  Historia. 

182  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

of  John  Mor  Tainistear,  and  now  head  of  the 
Family  of  Dunnyveg,  possessed  extensive  sway 
and  influence.  While  there  is  nothing  inherently 
improbable  in  this  account,  it  does  not  seem  to  fit  in 
with  the  facts  that  are  generally  accepted.  It  is 
difficult  to  see  how,  if  Alexander  had  retired  to  the 
Isles,  the  ignominy  that  followed  need  have  occurred. 
The  pursuit  by  the  King's  troops  became  so  hot  that 
Alexander  was  driven  south,  step  by  step,  to  the 
very  headquarters  of  the  enemy's  power.  The 
sequel,  as  told  in  works  of  history,  was  a  humiliating 
episode.  The  proud  representative  of  the  Kings  of 
Innse-Gall  must  have  been  in  terrible  straits,  indeed, 
ere  he  placed  himself  in  a  position  not  only  abject 
but  grotesque.  On  Easter  Sunday  the  King  and 
his  Court  were  assembled  in  the  Church  at  Holy- 
rood  to  celebrate  the  sacred  festival.  Before  the 
high  altar,  it  is  said  that  Alexander  presented 
himself  in  attire  so  scanty  that  the  congregation 
was  deeply  impressed.  The  authorities  are  so  con- 
flicting as  to  be  untrustworthy.  According  to  one 
writer  he  appeared  in  a  white  shirt  and  drawers/ 
according  to  another  he  came  with  a  rope  about 
his  neck.^  We  are  inclined  to  think  that 
Alexander,  even  in  the  hour  of  his  extremity, 
would  still  have  worn  the  garb  of  his  country,  a 
garb  unfamiliar  to  the  minions  of  the  Court,  and 
hence,  quite  possibly,  the  tradition  may  have 
obtained  currency  that  he  appeared  before  the  King 
in  his  shirt.  On  bended  knee,  holding  his  bonnet  in 
one  hand  and  the  point  of  his  sword  in  the  other, 
he  made  his  submission.  On  the  intercession  of 
the  Queen,  the  proffered  sword  was  accepted,  and 
Alexander's  life  was  spared,  but  he  was  committed 

^  Forduu.  2  Balfour's  Auuuk  of  Scotland,  pp.  147-8. 

ALEXANDER   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  183 

a  prisoner  to  Tantallon  Castle,  under  the  custody  of 
William  Douglas,  Earl  of  Angus,  His  mother,  who 
was  blamed  for  instigating  him  to  rebellion,  was 
still  a  jorisoner  at  Inchcolm. 

The  Clan  Donald  bitterly  resented  the  humili- 
ation to  which  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  was  now, 
a  second  time  and  in  aggravated  form,  subjected. 
It  was  resolved  by  the  foremost  leaders  of 
the  Clan  to  strike  a  blow  for  honour  and  for 
vengeance.  The  whole  strength  of  the  Clan  was 
mustered  under  Donald  Balloch,  Lord  of  Dunnyveg, 
who,  though  still  a  youth,^  was  a  redoubtable 
champion,  the  most  distinguished  warrior  of  his 
race.  His  career  was  destined  to  be  stormy,  but 
those  writers  who  express  horror  at  the  violence  of 
some  of  his  acts  should  have  remembered  that, 
according  to  the  code  of  honour  of  his  day,  the 
filial  duty  devolved  upon  him  of  wreaking  vengeance 
upon  the  Scottish  State,  which  he  rightly  held 
accountable  for  the  murder  of  his  father  by  the 
hand  of  treacherous  hirelings. 

The  Boyal  army  lay  encamped  in  Lochaber,  under 
the  leadership  of  the  Earls  of  Mar  and  Caithness. 
These  noblemen  were  the  King's  lieutenants  in  that 
region,  whose  function  it  was  to  extinguish  any 
sparks  of  disaffection  to  the  Crown  that  might  still 
be  lingering  in  the  north.  It  was  once  more  the 
destiny  of  Mar  to  meet  the  Clan  Donald  in  deadly 
combat,  and  another  Donald,  nephew  to  him  whose 
prowess  he  felt  at  Harlaw,  was  now  to  prove  himself 
a  foeman  worthy  of  his  steel.  It  is  strange  that 
Mar  should  have  under-estimated  the  warlike 
qualities  of  his  opponents ;  though  it  is  possible 
enough  that  the  recent  discomfiture  of  the  men  of 
the  Isles  in  Lochaber  may  have  bred  undue  con- 

^  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  309. 

184  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

fidence.  Relying  on  the  superior  armour  and 
discipline  of  his  host,  he  sat  calmly  in  his  tent 
playing  cards  with  Mackintosh,  who  still  acted  the 
part  of  a  disloyal  vassal.^ 

Meanwhile,  the  fighting  men  of  the  Clan  Donald, 
under  their  brave  leader,  were  drawing  nigh.  From 
their  imprisoned  chief  in  Tantallon  Castle  a  message 
had  come  to  all  faithful  friends  and  clansmen  to  face 
the  foe  bravely,  whatever  the  consequences  might  be 
to  himself,  and  now,  burning  with  the  memory  of 
wrongs  sustained,  and  inspired  by  devotion  to  the 
head  of  their  house,  they  longed  to  meet  the  enemy  in 
the  field.  From  far  and  near,  wherever  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  held  sway,  the  loyal  vassals  and  their  followers 
mustered  under  the  ancient  banner.  The  fiery  cross 
flew  from  glen  to  glen,  from  isle  to  isle,  nor  did  it 
fly  in  vain.  The  lines  of  Sir  Walter  Scott — though 
composed  to  the  air  of  a  Cameron  piobroch,  whose 
Donald  Dubh  was  not  Donald  Balloch,  but  the  chief 
of  the  Clan  Cameron— are  so  spirited  and  rousing 
that  they  well  be  quoted  here.  Sir  Walter's 
"Piobroch  of  Donuil  Dubh"  was  undoubtedly  intended 
to  glorify  Donald  Balloch  and  his  host : — 

*'  Piobroch  of  Donald  Dhii, 
Piobroch  of  D6nuil, 
Wake  thy  wild  voice  auew, 
Summon  Clan  Coniiil. 
Come  aAvay,  come  away, 
Hark  to  the  summons  ! 
Come  in  your  war  array, 
Gentles  and  commons. 

"  Come  from  deep  glen 
And  from  mountain  so  rocky, 
The  war  pipe  and  peimon 
Are  at  Inverlochy. 

^  Hugh  Macdonald's  MS.  - 

ALEXANDER    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  185 

Come  every  hill  plaid  and 
True  heart  that  wears  one, 
Come  every  steel  blade  and 
Strong  hand  that  bears  one." 

The  Maclans  of  Ardnamurchan,  MacAllans  of 
Moydert,  the  followers  of  Ranald  Bane,  brother  of 
Donald  Balloch — these,  with  the  rest  of  the  Clan 
Donald,  the  Macleans,  MacDuffies,  and  Macgees, 
sailed  in  their  galleys  to  Inverskippnish,  two  miles 
distant  from  the  E-oyal  forces  at  Inverlochy. 

The  scene  of  the  ensuing  conflict  was  the  country 
of  Alastair  Carrach,  uncle  to  the  Lord  of  the  Isles, 
who,  by  the  disposition  of  his  father,  had  receiv^ed 
Lochaber  as  his  inheritance.  It  is  said  that  about 
this  time  there  was  a  proposal  on  the  part  of  the 
Crown  to  deprive  the  Macdonalds  of  their  rights  in 
Lochaber  and  to  bestow  the  same  upon  the  Earl  of 
Mar,^  but  there  seems  no  evidence  to  shew  that  such 
a  transference  ever  took  place.  If,  however,  Alastair 
Carrach  considered  his  patrimony  to  be  in  danger, 
his  interest  in  the  approaching  battle  must  have 
been  much  intensified.  With  two  hundred  and 
twenty  archers  he  marched  to  the  aid  of  Donald 
Balloch's  forces,  and  took  up  his  position  on  the  hills 
above  Inverlochy. 

The  Earl  of  Mar  found  that  a  far  more  serious 
game  than  he  had  been  playing  was  now  on  hand, 
and  that  the  men  of  the  Isles,  of  whose  approach 
he  was  warned,  were  rapidly  bearing  down  upon 
his  encampment.  At  last  the  critical  moment 
arrived  when  the  Highland  host  came  into  conflict 
with  their  Southern  foes.  The  issue  was  not  long 
doubtful.  The  wild  onset  of  the  Islesmen,  who 
carried  death  upon  the  blades  of  their  claymores 

^  Hugh  Macdonald's  MS. 

l86  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  Lochaber  axes,  plunged  the  Earl's  army  into 
confusion,  while  the  galling  fire  of  Alastair  Carrach's 
archers,  whose  successive  volleys  from  the  heights 
seemed  to  darken  the  air,  still  further  carried  des- 
truction into  the  ranks  of  the  enemy.  The  result 
was  the  complete  discomfiture  and  utter  rout  of  the 
King's  army,  accompanied  by  great  slaughter.  The 
Earl  of  Caithness,  sixteen  of  his  personal  retinue, 
a  number  of  Lowland  knights  and  barons,  with 
hundreds  of  the  rank  and  file  were  left  dead  upon 
the  field.  The  Earl  of  Mar  was  wounded  in  the 
thigh  by  an  arrow,  and,  accompanied  by  one  atten- 
dant, had  to  take  refuge  in  the  hills.  Hugh 
Macdonald,  the  historian  of  Sleat,  narrates  certain 
adventures  which  befell  the  Earl  of  Mar  subsequent 
to  his  reverse  at  Inverlochy.  In  his  wanderings 
among  the  mountains,  during  this  not  least  interest- 
ing episode  in  his  eventful  career,  he  and  his  servant 
are  said  to  have  fallen  in  with  women  who  were 
tending  cattle.  Having  obtained  from  these  a  little 
barley  meal,  the  wanderers  mixed  it  with  water  in 
the  heel  of  the  Earl's  shoe — no  other  vessel  being 
available — and  the  pangs  of  hunger  were,  for  the 
time  being,  appeased.  Despite  the  simplicity  of  the 
meal  and  the  strange  utensil  in  which  it  was  pre- 
pared, to  the  Earl  it  was  the  sweetest  morsel  he 
ever  tasted,  while  in  remembrance  of  the  occasion  he 
is  said  to  have  composed  the  Gaelic  stanza  : — 

"  'S  maith  an  cocaire  'n  t-acras 
'S  mairg  a  ni  tailceas  air  a'  bhiadh 
Fuarag  eorn  a  sail  mo  bhroige 
Biadh  a  b'  fhearr  a  fhuair  mi  riamh.''^ 

^  The  following  is  a  free  translation  : — ■ 

"  The  paugs  of  hunger  are  a  skilful  cook, 
Woe  to  the  man  who  scorns  the  humblest  brew, 
The  sweetest  fare  of  wliich  I  ere  partook 
Was  barley  meal  and  water  in  my  shoe." 

ALEXANDER    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  187 

But  the  Earl's  adventures  were  not  quite  over. 
Fleeing  through  Badenoch  in  disguise,  and  hard 
pressed  by  the  pursuers,  he  was  sheltered  in  a  hut 
among  the  hills  by  an  Irishman  named  O'Birrin,  and 
hospitably  though  rudely  entertained.  The  Earl 
told  his  host,  who  was  ignorant  of  the  stranger's 
rank,  that  if  he  ever  was  in  need  he  was  to  go  to 
Kildrummie  Castle,  and  there  ask  for  Alexander 
Stewart,  when  he  would  hear  something  to  his 
advantage.  In  the  course  of  time,  O'Birrin  arrived 
at  the  Castle,  and  found,  to  his  great  astonishment, 
that  it  was  the  life  of  the  Earl  of  Mar  which  he  had, 
in  all  probability,  saved.  The  Earl  desired  him  to 
bring  his  wife  and  son  to  Kildrummie,  but  this  the 
Irishman  declined  to  do,  as  his  wife  was  too  old  to 
leave  her  native  district.  After  some  days,  O'Birrin 
was  sent  on  his  way  rejoicing  in  60  milch  cows,  and 
with  an  invitation  to  his  son  to  come  and  settle  at 
Kildrummie.  The  son  came  and  acquired  a  freehold 
from  the  Earl,  which  was  occupied  by  his  descen- 
dants for  many  generations.^  Such  stories  as  these 
well  illustrate  the  conditions  of  life  in  those  old 
unsettled  times.  The  latter  in  particular,  showing 
as  it  does  a  generous  appreciation  of  bygone  kind- 
ness, not  too  common  in  the  world,  casts  a  pleasing 
light  upon  the  character  of  Mar,  and  happily  relieves 
a  story  of  strife  and  vengeance. 

After  the  battle  of  Inverlochy,  the  first  but  not 
the  last  fought  by  the  Clan  Donald  in  that  region, 
Donald  Balloch,  having  routed  the  chivalry  of  Scot- 
land, and  ravaged  the  country  of  the  Camerons  and 
Mackintoshes  in  revenge  for  their  desertion  of  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles  in  the  unfortunate  hostilities  in 
Lochaber,   returned  with  much  booty  to  the  Isles, 

^  Hugh  Macdonald's  MS. 

188  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

and  thence  took  ship  to  his  Irish  territories.  The 
feelings  of  the  defeated  Camerons  were  poetically 
immortalised  in  the  well-known  piobroch  of  Donald 
Dubh,  to  which  reference  has  already  been  made. 
The  words^  to  which  the  music  is  wedded  lament 
the  discomfiture  of  the  Clan  Chattan  and  Clan 
Cameron,  and  both  words  and  music  abound  in 
mournful  cadences  and  wailing  repetitions.  The 
following  lines,  not  a  translation  but  an  enlarge- 
ment, so  to  speak,  of  the  original  words  of  the 
piobroch,  are  supposed  to  convey  the  sense  of  defeat 
and  humiliation  on  the  part  of  Alexander  of  Isla's 
disloyal  vassals  : — 

Piobroch  of  Donald  Dubh, 
Piobroch  of  D6iiuil, 
Sad  are  thy  notes  and  few, 
Piobroch  of  D6nui]. 
Proud  is  Clan  Donald's  note, 
Gaily  their  banners  float 
O'er  castle,  tower,  and  moat 
At  Inverlochy. 

Routed  we  are  to-day, 
Spearman  and  bowman, 
Victory  in  the  fray 
Gone  to  the  foeman ; 
Lost  many  a  hero's  life, 
Sad  many  a  widowed  wife, 
Triumph  in  battle's  strife 
Eests  with  Clan  D6nuil. 

Mighty  Clan  Chattan's  fled, 
Famous  in  story, 
Gone  from  the  battle  red. 
Vanquished  and  gory. 
Where  is  Clan  Vurich's  host  1 
Great  is  Clan  Donald's  boast, 
Long  shall  the  field  we've  lost 
Heighten  their  glory. 

*  The  version  here  referred  to  is  the  original  Gaelic  by  some  unknowa 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  189 

The  news  of  the  revolt  and  of  the  battle  of 
Inverlochy  filled  King  James  with  wrath  and  con- 
sternation, believing,  as  he  did,  that  the  turbulence 
of  the  Highland  chiefs  had  been  effectually  quelled 
at  Inverness  and  Lochaber.  He  accordingly  took 
measures  to  put  down  the  disturbers  of  the  peace 
with  a  strong  hand.  He  got  Parliament  to  impose 
a  land  tax  to  defray  the  expenses  of  the  new 
campaign  which  lie  felt  it  necessary  to  undertake 
against  the  Highlanders.  He  soon  made  his 
appearance  at  Dunstaffnage  Castle,  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  Oban,  with  the  view  of  proceeding  to 
the  Isles  and  visiting  with  condign  punishment 
Donald  Balloch  and  his  coadjutors.  The  state- 
ments of  Scottish  historians  regarding  the  events 
that  followed  are  exceedingly  unreliable  and  to  be 
received  with  great  caution.  It  is  averred  that 
all  those  who  had  taken  part  in  the  insurrection, 
except  Donald  Balloch,  came  to  James  at  Dun- 
staffnage and  made  their  submission,  while  300  of 
them  were  hanged  or  beheaded,  and  that,  as  the 
conclusion  of  the  whole  matter,  the  head  of  the 
Lord  of  Dunnyveg  was  sent  from  Ireland  as  a 
present  from  Odo,  Prince  of  Connaught,  to  the 
King/  The  amount  of  truth  in  this  version  of 
what  took  place  may  be  tested  by  the  accuracy  of 
the  reference  to  the  arch  offender,  Donald  Balloch 
himself  Long  ere  the  King's  arrival  at  Dunstaff- 
nage the  hero  of  Inverlochy  was  safe  beyond 
pursuit.  Through  his  mother,  Marjory  Bisset, 
he  had  inherited  the  territory  of  the  Glens  in 
Antrim,  a  region  to  this  day  associated  with  the 
family  of  Dunnyveg,  and  there  he  found  a  secure 
retreat  from  the  anger  of  the  Scottish  King.     The 

^  Chronicle  of  the  Earls  of  Ross,  pp.  11-12. 

190  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Scottish  Court,  however,  was  misled  into  the  belief 
that  Donald  Balloch  was  no  more.  Word  was  sent 
by  James  to  Hugh  Buy  O'Neill,  an  Irish  chief  of 
Ulster,  with  whom  he  had  been  for  some  time  previ- 
ous associated  in  a  friendly  league  against  England, 
with  the  request  that  he  should  capture  Donald 
Balloch  and  send  him  to  Scotland  alive  or  dead. 
O'Neill  was  desirous  of  retaining  the  King's  friend- 
ship, while  he  was  reluctant  to  take  hostile  action 
against  the  powerful  Lord  of  Antrim.  With  a 
humour,  grimmer  and  more  ghastly  than  is  usually 
met  with  in  the  Emerald  Isle,  a  human  head,  dis- 
severed from  the  body,  was  somehow  got  hold  of,  and 
sent  to  James  as  the  head  of  Donald  Balloch.  The 
deception  served  its  purpose,  for  it  was  the  decided 
belief  for  many  a  day  among  the  Scottish  nobles, 
and  Scottish  historians  have  gravely  placed  it  on 
record,  that  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  and  the  Glens 
had  actually  been  put  to  death,  and  the  Scottish 
King  laid  the  flattering  unction  to  his  soul  that  the 
most  formidable  warrior  of  the  Clan  Donald  must 
now,  perforce,  cease  from  troubling.  That  Donald 
Balloch  did  not  lose  his  head  through  the  agency  of 
O'Neill,  but  that  he  lost  his  heart  irretrievably 
through  O'Neill's  daughter,  is  abundantly  attested 
by  a  matrimonial  alliance  which  was  soon  afterwards 
cemented  between  the  families.  Lowland  historians, 
as  already  stated,  and  among  the  rest  Buchanan,^ 
were  taken  in  by  the  pretended  decapitation  ;  but 
many  years  after  the  first  two  Jameses  had  been 
gathered  to  their  fathers,  Donald  Balloch  was  once 
more  making  a  mighty  stir  on  the  stormy  scene  of 
Scottish  civil  war. 

The  battle  of  Inverlochy  was  fought  in  the  early 
weeks  of  1431,  by  which  time  the  Lord  of  the  Isles 

1  Liber  X.,  chap.  36. 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  191 

had  been  pining  a  prisoner  in  Tantallon  Castle  for  a 
space  of  well-nigh  three  years.  But  now  the  time 
was  rapidly  approaching  when  he  was  to  be  set  at 
liberty.  At  first  sight  it  seems  somewhat  remark- 
able that  a  King  who  had  proved  himself  so  inexor- 
able to  offenders  against  his  authority  should  have 
displayed  such  leniency  to  the  Lord  of  the  Isles, 
when  others  had  been  made  to  endure  the  last 
penalty  of  the  law.  His  conduct  in  this  particular 
instance  towards  a  subject  who  had  been  more  than 
once  guilty  of  rebellion,  was  not  characteristic  of 
his  policy  or  methods.  It  is  hardly  to  be  accounted 
for  by  Alexander's  kinship  to  the  throne,  as  the 
blood  of  many  of  the  King's  relatives  had  already 
flowed  upon  the  scaflbld.  The  reasons,  however, 
may  not  be  far  to  seek  It  is  probable  that  hj  this 
time  the  King  had  discovered  the  impolicy  of  harsh 
measures,  and  that  at  a  time  when  murmurs  of  dis- 
content were  beginning  to  be  heard  in  other  quarters, 
the  more  prudent  course  was  to  put  an  end,  if 
possible,  to  the  quarrel  with  the  Lord  of  the  Isles. 
The  supposed  death  of  Donald  Balloch  had  also,  to 
the  King's  fancy,  removed  the  most  formidable  dis- 
turber of  the  peace,  and  a  favourable  opportunity 
alone  was  awanting  to  open  the  gates  of  Tantallon 
Castle  and  set  the  prisoner  free.  Such  an  oppor- 
tunity soon  arose.  In  October,  1431,  the  heir  to  the 
Scottish  Crown — afterwards  James  11. — was  born, 
and  it  is  said  that  during  the  public  rejoicing  con- 
nected with  this  auspicious  event,  an  amnesty  was 
granted  to  a  number  of  political  delinquents,  and, 
among  others,  to  Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  who 
was  restored  to  his  freedom,  dignities,  and  posses- 


^  MS.  History  of  the  Mackintoshes, 

193  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

If  the  early  years  of  Alexander's  public  life  were 
crowded  with  troublous  events,  after  1431  his  career 
was  peaceful  and  prosperous,  his  life  being  spent  in 
the  enjoyment  of  the  honours,  and  the  discharge  of 
the  duties  of  his  high  position.  It  has  been  the 
prevailing  belief  among  historians  that  at  the  date 
of  Alexander's  liberation  from  Tantallon,  he  not 
only  received  restitution  of  his  ancestral  rights  as 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  but  likewise  full  investiture  of  the 
Earldom  of  Ross.  Of  this  latter,  however,  there 
does  not  seem  to  be  anything  like  adequate  or 
satisfactory  proof  The  evidence  seems  all  the 
other  way.  It  is  unquestionable  that  the  functions 
of  the  Earldom  of  Hoss  lay  in  the  Crown  as  late  as 
1430.  No  doubt  at  that  time  Alexander,  Lord  of 
the  Isles,  lay  a  prisoner  at  Tantallon,  which  might 
be  adduced  as  a  reason  for  the  Crown  possessing 
the  Earldom,  seeing  that  the  possessions  and 
dignities  of  the  family  had  been  forfeited.  The 
contrary  will  appear  from  consideration  of  the 
following  facts  : — On  the  11th  April,  1430,  there 
was  an  enquiry  made  at  Nairn,  in  presence  of 
Donald,  Thane  of  Cawdor,  regarding  the  tenure 
of  the  lands  of  Kilravock  and  Easter  Geddes,  an 
enquiry  rendered  necessary  by  the  destruction  of 
the  ancient  writs  in  the  burning  of  Elgin  Cathedral 
in  1390.  In  the  record  of  that  inquisition,  it  is 
stated  with  the  utmost  clearness,  that  the  lands  in 
question  were  held  from  the  Crown  in  ward  for  the 
Earl  of  Boss,  who  had  not  received  the  Crown 
confirmation  as  such  since  the  death  of  the  last 
Earl  of  Ross  in  France  six  years  previously.-^  Still 
stronger  testimony  to  the  same  effect  is  borne  by  a 
Crown   charter   of  James  I.   to  Donald,   Thane   of 

'  The  Family  of  Rose  of  Kilravock,  pp.  127-128. 

ALEXANDER   DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  193 

Cawdor,  on  4th  September,  1430,  which  opens'- 
with  the  words,  "  James,  by  the  grace  of  God  King 
of  Scots  and  Earl  of  Koss."^  Nor  is  this  all.  It 
appears  from  the  evidence  of  contemporary  records 
from  1431  down  to  1435  that  payments  of  £10, 
£24,  and  £34  were  made  out  of  the  Koyal  Treasury 
to  the  Countess  of  Ross  as  "  Dowager  Lady  of  the 
Isles."  Two  inferences  may  be  drawn  from  these 
references  without  straining  the  probabilities  of  the 
case.  In  the  first  place,  it  may  reasonably  be  sup- 
posed that  the  King,  who  drew  the  revenues  of  the 
Earldom,  acknowledged  by  these  payments  a  certain 
moral  right  to  them  on  the  part  of  the  Lady  of  the 
Isles,  and,  in  the  second  place,  her  designation  in 
these  accounts,  not  as  Countess  of  Ross,  but  as 
Dowager  Lady  of  the  Isles,  seems  an  undoubted 
proof  that,  as  late  as  1435,  James  continued  to 
withhold  his  formal  recognition  of  her  title  to  the 

There  is,  in  fact,  the  best  reason  to  believe  that 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles  did  not  enter  into  possession  of 
the  Earldom  of  Hoss  during  the  life-time  of  James 
I.,  and  however  good  and  equitable  his  claim  to  the 
privileges  of  that  high  position,  no  effective  right 
could  accrue  to  him  without  the  acknowledgment  of 
the  supreme  fountain  of  property,  as  well  as  honour, 
in  the  realm.  James  I.  was  assassinated  on  the  21st 
February,  1437,  and  the  first  charter  proceeding 
from  Alexander,  in  his  capacity  as  Earl  of  Ross,  is 
dated  September  of  the  same  year.  This  seems 
to  suggest  that  in  the  interval  the  Regents  acting 
for  the  young  King  had  given  the  Lord  of  the  Isles 

^  Jacobus  Die  gratia  rex  Scotorum  ac  Comes  Rossiiv;. — The  Thaues  of 
Cawdor,  p.  11. 

^  Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  IV.,  541. 


194  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Investiture  of  the  Earldom,  which  the  late  King  so 
long  continued  to  withhold.  During  the  half-dozen 
years  that  intervened  between  Alexander's  restora- 
tion and  the  death  of  James,  the  chronicles  of  the 
age  have  little  to  say  about  the  Lord  of  the  Isles, 
and  although  we  may  naturally  suppose  that  he 
would  have  occupied  an  attitude  of  opposition  to 
the  Court,  it  is  evident  that  he  stood  apart  from 
the  conspiracy  by  which  the  dark  deed  of  murder 
was  plotted  and  perpetrated.  A  period  of  quiet 
had  come  to  Alexander  after  the  tempestuous 
episodes  of  his  earlier  years,  and  down  to  the 
close  of  his  life  he  and  his  vassals  enjoyed  the 
happiness  of  the  nation  whose  annals  are  dull. 

James  II,  was  only  a  child  of  six  at  his  father's 
death.  Either  by  the  will  of  the  late  King,  or  by 
the  ordinance  of  a  Parliament  called  at  Edinburgh 
the  year  after  his  death,  two  Kegents,  Sir  William 
Crichton  and  Sir  Alexander  Livingstone  of  Cal- 
lendar,  were  given  the  supreme  power  in  the  State, 
and  they,  in  the  exercise  of  their  functions,  appointed 
Archibald  Earl  of  Douglas  Lieutenant-General  of 
Scotland.  It  is  probable  that  the  friendship  between 
the  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  the  Douglas  family,  which 
afterwards  assumed  a  form  dangerous  to  the  State, 
led  to  the  advancement  of  Alexander  to  the  high 
position  which  he  occupied,  not  only  as  Earl  of  Boss^ 
but  as  Wardf  n,  or  Justiciar,  or  High  Sheriff  of  the 
whole  region  north  of  the  Forth,  an  office  which  we 
find  him  exercising  in  1438,  the  year  following  the 
death  of  James  I.^  The  tenure  of  an  office  so 
important  implied  the  confidence  of  the  Crown,  and 
we  find  in  1438,  and  on  occasions  afterwards,  that 
John    Bullok,    Bishop    of    Boss,    was    Alexander's 

^  Vide  Charter  in  Family  of  Innee. 

ALEXANDER   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  195 

delegate  to  the  Council  of  Regency,  when  he 
wished  to  consult  the  supreme  authority  as  to  his 
judicial  duties  in  the  North, ^  During  the  long 
minority  of  James  II.,  the  name  of  Alexander  of 
Isla  appears  frequently  in  the  records  of  the  north, 
and  there  is  every  reason  to  believe  that  the  con- 
fidence reposed  by  the  State  in  his  distinguished 
abilities  and  force  of  character  was  amply  justified 
in  the  performance  of  his  judicial  duties.  The  office 
of  Justiciar  gave  him  command  of  the  town  of 
Inverness,  where  many  of  his  Courts  were  held, 
and  there  is  something  surely  of  the  irony  of  history 
in  contemplating  the  turbulent  rebel,  the  fierce 
incendiary  of  1427,  now  appearing  in  the  Capital  of 
the  Highlands  representing  in  his  own  person  the 
supreme  majesty  of  the  law.  It  may  well  be 
believed  that  the  feelings  of  the  Invernessians  would 
be  of  a  somewhat  mingled  nature  on  Alexander's 
appearance  amongst  them  in  this  unwonted  guise. 
There  is  no  evidence,  however,  that  the  Earl  of  Ross 
exercised  the  duties  of  his  office  in  any  unjust  or 
oppressive  manner.  An  exception  to  this  may 
possibly  be  the  case  of  Donald  Dubh,  the  Chief  of 
the  Clan  Cameron.  It  will  be  remembered  that 
this  chief  and  his  clan,  though  vassals  of  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles,  treacherously  deserted  him  during  the 
hostilities  of  1427,  and  went  over  to  the  King's  side. 
This  desertion  by  the  Clan  Cameron,  as  well  as  by 
the  Clan  Chattan,  proved  disastrous  to  Alexander, 
and  was  the  direct  cause  of  his  discomfiture  and 
humiliating  surrender.  The  Lord  of  the  Isles  would 
have  been  more  than  human  did  the  memory  of  his 
betrayal  not  rankle  in  his  breast.     According  to  the 

^  Book  of  Douglas,  vol.  I.,  p.  440  ;  Exchequer  Rolls,  vol,  V.,  p.  33. 

196  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

code  of  honour  of  the  time,  to  forget  and  forgive  so 
grave  an  injury  without  due  reprisals  would  have 
been  regarded  as  pusillanimous  and  cowardly.  And 
now  Nemesis  has  come.  The  Scottish  Government 
has  put  in  Alexander's  hands  a  powerful  w^eapon  of 
revenge  by  giving  him  authority  over  the  persons  and 
property  of  the  lieges  in  the  north,  and  in  this  case 
he  is  not  slow  to  exercise  it.  Donald  Dubh  was 
dispossessed  of  his  lands  in  Lochaber,  and  forced  to 
take  refuge  in  Ireland. 

The  Clan  Maclean,  also  vassals  of  the  Isles,  were 
already  in  possession  of  extensive  lands,  and  were 
rapidly  rising  in  importance  as  a  territorial  family. 
A  number  of  years  previous  to  the  dispossession  of 
the  Clan  Cameron,  a  scion  of  the  House  of  Maclean, 
John  Garve,  a  son  of  Lachlan  Maclean  of  Duart,  had 
received  from  Alexander  of  Isla  a  grant  of  the  lands 
and  barony  of  Coll,  and  now  he  obtains  the  further 
grant  from  him  of  the  forfeited  lands  of  Donald 
Dubh.  It  is  rather  singular  that  the  Mackintoshes, 
who  were  equally  disloyal  to  Alexander  in  1427, 
escaped  the  outpourings  of  the  Island  potentate's 
wrath.  No  doubt,  in  the  latter  case,  there  were 
relationships  by  marriage,  though  such  alliances 
between  Highland  families  were  not  always  effective 
in  averting  feuds  and  bloodshed.  In  any  case,  the 
Mackintoshes  made  up  the  peace  with  Alexander, 
and  remained  on  the  same  terms  of  vassalage  as 
before.  Tlie  favour  shewn  to  the  Clan  Chattan  by 
Alexander  was  indeed  excessive,  for  it  was  at  the 
expense  of  a  branch  of  his  own  family,  the  House  of 
Keppoch.  The  family  of  Alastair  Carrach  was  for- 
feited in  1431  for  their  action  in  the  rising  of  Donald 
Balloch  ;  but  it  does  not  appear  that  the  Lord  of  the 

ALEXANDER    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  197 

Isles,  on  his  own  restoration  to  his  Hberty  and 
possessions,  made  any  attempt  to  reinstate  them 
in  their  lands.  Instead  of  that,  we  find  him,  in 
1443,  not  only  confirming  Mackintosh  in  the 
lands  he  formerly  possessed,  but  also  giving  him 
a  grant  of  the  patrimonial  lands  of  the  Keppochs. 
This  unjust  and  unfriendly  action  was  strenuously 
and  successfully  resisted  by  the  Lords  of  Lochaber, 
who  refused  to  bow  to  the  majesty  of  parchment,  and 
for  hundreds  of  years  there  is  witnessed  the  singular 
spectacle  of  a  clan,  in  actual  possession  of  their 
ancestral  acres,  holding  them  without  a  scrap  of 
title,,  without  any  instrument  of  tenure,  save  their 
good  sharp  broadswords  and  the  strength  of  their 
right  arms.  Alexander  still  heaps  favours  upon  the 
Chief  of  the  Clan  Chattan,  for  we  find  him  in  1447 
granting  him  the  bailliary  of  all  Lochaber  in  per- 
petual fee  and  heritage.  This  was  a  most  important 
as  well  as  lucrative  appointment,  and  was  of  a  nature 
to  lead  to  still  greater  sway  and  influence. 

There  seems  little  reason  to  doubt  the  statement 
of  Scottish  historians  that  Alexander,  despite  his 
apparent  loyalty  and  the  confidence  reposed  ia  him 
by  the  Council  of  State  during  his  latter  years,  was 
drawn  into  that  league  with  the  Douglas  family 
which,  in  after  years,  descending  as  an  heritage 
to  his  successor,  proved  at  last  the  ruin  of  his 
House.  We  find  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  Doug-las 
having  an  interview  in  Bute  in  1438,  and  although 
the  purpose  of  the  meeting  was  not  disclosed,  it  not 
improbably  had  reference  to  the  treasonable  compact 
which,  though  not  finally  concluded  at  that  time, 
was  in  serious  and  earnest  contemplation.^     It  was 

1  Tlie  Douglas  Book,  vol.  I.,  p.  440. 

198  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

in  March  7,  1445,  that  the  three  Earls — Crawford, 
Douglas,  and  E-oss— subscribed  and  sealed  the 
offensive  and  defensive  league  which,  for  the 
parties  concerned,  bore  such  disastrous  fruits.^ 

Not  much  more  that  is  noteworthy  remains  to  be 
recorded  of  the  latter  years  of  Alexander  de  He. 
According  to  the  Chronicle  of  the  Earls  of  Ross^  he 
died  at  his  Castle  of  Dingwall,  and  was  buried  in 
the  Chanonry  of  Ross  on  the  8th  May,  1449.  His 
mortal  remains  were  not  conveyed  to  their  kindred 
dust  in  Hy,  within  whose  chapel  of  Oran  the  Lords 
of  the  Isles  for  many  a  generation  found  their  last 
resting  place.  Alone  of  all  the  heads  of  his  race  he 
lies  beneath  the  shadow  of  that  once  noble  fane  ^ — 
desecrated  and  converted  into  a  stone  quarry  by 
that  stout  defender  of  the  faith,  Oliver  Cromwell 
— but  from  the  desolation  and  wreckage  of  the 
time  not  a  vestige  has  survived  to  mark  the  place 
of  sepulture  of  the  great  Earl  of  E,oss. 

From  all  that  we  can  gather,  Alexander  was 
little  past  his  prime  when  he  died.  But  his  youth 
of  trouble  and  hardship  may  well  have  sown  the 
seeds  of  premature  decay  and  hastened  the  length- 
ening of  the  shadow.  Despite  some  humiliating 
episodes  of  his  younger  days,  he  worthily  upheld 
the  name  and  honour  of  his  line.  The  testimony 
borne  by  the  ancient  record  of  his  race  bears  out 
the  view  that  while  he  was  valiant  in  the  field 
he  was  kindly  and  generous  towards  his  dependants, 
and  that  he  ruled  his  vast  territories,  in  his  latter 
years,  with  tranquil  and  beneficent  sway.^  If  his 
early  career  was  turbulent  and  warlike,   his  latter 

^  Balfour's  Aniicals  of  Scotland,  vol.  L,  p.  173. 
-  pp.  10-11.  3  Fortrose  Cathedral.  ^  Ibid. 



life  was  full  of  peace  and  dignity,  and  he  handed 
down  unimpaired  to  his  successor  the  great  and 
ancient  heritage  of  his  fathers. 


200  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 



John  de  He,  Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles. — The  Earl  a 
Minor  when  he  succeeded. — Minority  of  James  II. — League 
between  the  Earls  of  Ross,  Crawford,  and  Douglas. — The 
Earl  of  Ross  in  Rebellion. — Murder  of  the  Earl  of  Douglas. — 
The  Earl  of  Ross  and  his  Ross-shin;  Neighbours. —  Raids  on 
Orkney  by  the  Islemen. — Meeting  of  Douglas  and  Macdonald 
at  Dunstaffnage. — Invasion  of  the  King's  Lands  by  Donald 
Balloch. — Raid  of  Lismore. — Discomfiture  of  Bishop  Lauder. 
— The  Lady  of  the  Isles  Escapes  from  the  Highlands. — John 
receives  favours  from  the  King. — He  is  appointed  one  of  the 
Wardens  of  the  Marches. — The  Earl  of  Ross  at  the  Siege  of 
Roxburgh. — Treaty  of  Ardthornish. 

On  the  death  of  Alexander  of  Isla,  Earl  of  Ross,  in 
1440,  his  son  John  succeeded  him  both  in  his  island 
and  mainland  territories.  The  period  was  a  com- 
paratively quiet  and  prosperous  one  in  the  history 
of  the  family  of  Macdonald.  Alexander,  after  many 
struggles  and  vicissitudes,  had  succeeded  at  length 
in  uniting  to  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  the  mainland 
inheritance  of  his  mother,  and  thus  both  in  extent 
of  territory  and  influence  he  had  elevated  himself  to 
a  pinnacle  of  power  unequalled  even  by  the  Lord  of 
Douglas  in  the  South.  The  policy  of  Alexander  seems 
to  have  been  dictated  by  the  wise  and  firm  reso- 
lution not  to  involve  himself  again  in  an  open  quarrel 
with  the  Scottish  State.  Though  his  sympathies 
lay  entirely  with  Crawford  and  Douglas,  having, 
as    stated    in    the    last    chapter,     entered    into    a 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  201 

league  with  them,  he  played  no  active  part  in 
the  civil  commotions  in  which  these  noblemen 
were  such  able  actors.  Far  removed  from  the 
base  of  operations,  he  remained  an  interested 
spectator  of  a  kingdom  torn  asunder  by  factions 
and  transformed  into  a  stage  on  which  the  actors 
played  each  for  his  own  hand.  This  wise  and 
prudent  policy  evidently  did  not  commend  itself  to 
Alexander's  son  and  succe'ssor,  John.  The  state  of 
matters  in  the  Highlands  at  the  death  of  Alexander 
favoured  the  continuation  of  a  defensive  rather  than 
an  aggressive  policy.  The  state  of  matters  in  the 
South  was  very  different.  The  kingdom  was  still  in 
the  throes  of  a  long  minority,  and  suffering  from  the 
woes  pronounced  upon  the  nation  whose  king  is  a 
child.  The  assassination  of  James  I.,  whose  wise,  if 
sometimes  harsh,  rule  had  done  so  much  to  restore 
order  and  tranquillity  throughout  his  kingdom,  was 
contemplated  with  secret  satisfaction  by  those 
turbulent  noblemen  whose  excessive  power  the  King 
had  so  successfully  curbed.  Now  that  his  powerful 
personality  is  removed,  and  the  reins  of  State  are 
placed  in  other  hands,  we  can  readily  conceive  how 
those  ambitious  and  yjovverful  banms,  on  whose 
feudal  privileges  the  King  had  encroached,  would 
seize  the  opportunity  with  which  fortune  favoured 
them  and  devote  their  energy  towards  the  restora- 
tion of  lost  power  and  prestige.  The  moving  spirits 
in  the  struggle  for  place  and  power  were  the 
Douglases,  the  Livingstons,  and  the  Crichtons,  the 
great  object  governing  the  policy  of  each  being  the 
destruction  of  the  other,  while  the  great  body  of  the 
lieges  groaned  under  the  cruellest  oppression. 

While  Lowland  Scotland  was  thus  distracted  by 
petty  feuds  and  tumults,  the  Highland  portion  of 
the   kingdom   seems   to    have    enjoyed   comparative 

202  .  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

peace  and  prosperity.  This  is  true  in  an  especial 
manner  of  the  extensive  domain  over  which  John, 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  held  sway,  and  it  was  mainly 
owing  to  the  wise  policy  of  his  father,  Alexander. 
There  was  no  call  for  an  aggressive  policy  on  the 
part  of  John  in  the  circumstances  in  which  he  found 
himself  on  his  accession  to  the  honours  and  dignities 
of  his  house.  By  taking  part  in  the  quarrels  of  his 
Southern  neighbours,  he  had  everything  to  lose,  and 
it  is  difficult  to  see  what,  under  the  most  favourable 
circumstances,  he  could  have  ultimately  gained  by 
pursuing  a  course  so  unwise  and  unj)atriotic.  He 
was  already  in  possession  of  a  vast  territory,  and 
surrounded  by  loyal  vassals  and  cadets  of  his  house. 
But  John  was  a  minor  at  the  time  of  his  father's 
death,  and  this,  no  doubt,  largely  accounts  for  the 
rash  policy  which  he  pursued  on  the  very  threshold 
of  his  career.  From  an  entry  in  the  Chamberlain 
Bolls,  it  would  appear  that  that  official  charges  him- 
self with  the  rents  of  the  lands  of  the  barony  of 
Kynedward  for  two  years,  that  barony  being  in 
ward  through  the  death  of  Alexander,  Earl  of  Boss.^ 
This  means  that  John  was  either  a  minor  or  had  not 
at  this  time  received  confirmation  of  the  lands  of 
the  barony  of  Kynedward  But  an  entry  in  the 
Exchequer  Bolls  of  the  year  1456  leaves  no  doubt 
as  to  the  age  of  the  Earl  of  Boss  when  he  succeeded 
to  that  dignity.  In  this  entry  reference  is  made  to 
the  barony  of  Kynedward  as  having  been  in  ward 
for  three  years,  during  which  the  Earl  of  Boss  was 
a  minor.^     John  was,  therefore,   eighteen  years  of 

1  Chamberlain  Rolls,  vol.  IIL,  p.  527. 

'■'  "  Et  non  onerat  se  de  firmis  terrarum  baronie  de  Kynedward,  que 
fuerunt  in  manibus  domini  regis  in  warda  per  spaciuni  trium  annorum,  que 
extendunt  se  ad  quingentas  marcas  per  annum  et  ultra,  cum  tenandiis 
ejusdcm,  ante  saisinam  datam  Johanni  Comiti  Rossie,  quia  ex  gracia  domini 
regis  in  minore  etate  consti tutus  intravit  in  eisdem,"  &c.,  &c. — Exchequer 
Eolls,  vol.  VL,  p.  158.     Vide  Ibidem,  vol.  V.,  p.  393. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  203 

age  when  he  succeeded  his  father  in  1449.  Bub 
though  thus  still  of  tender  years,  he  would  not  have 
lacked  for  counsel  at  so  critical  a  moment  in  his 
career  as  head  of  the  House  of  Macdonald.  The 
veteran  Donald  Balloch,  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  and  the 
Antrim  Glens,  was  the  principal  Councillor  of  the 
Island  Lord,  as  well  as  Captain  of  the  Clan  Donald, 
and  there  were  other  cadets  of  the  family  who  had 
attained  to  considerable  power  and  influence  in  the 
Highlands  and  Islands.  These  were  the  Clanranald 
branch,  the  Macdonalds  of  Ardnamurchan,  the  Mac- 
donalds  of  Glencoe,  and  the  Macdonalds  of  Keppoch. 
Surrounded  by  these,  as  well  as  by  the  other  vassals 
of  the  family,  whether  at  Dingwall  or  at  Ardthornish, 
John  had  little  to  fear  from  his  foes  inside  or  outside 
the  Highland  boundary. 

Both  at  Dingwall  and  at  Ardthornish,  the  Earl 
of  Boss  held  Court  on  a  scale  approaching  that  of  a 
sovereign  prince.  From  several  charters  granted  by 
him,  we  find  the  names  of  his  councillors  and  the 
offices  held  by  them  in  the  government  of  the  Isles. 
Donald  Balloch  comes  before  us  as  president  of  the 
Council,  while  Maclean  of  Ardgour  and  Munro  of 
Fowlis  were  Treasurer  of  the  Household  and 
Chamberlain  respectively  :  other  ofiices  were  held 
by  Maclean  of  Dowart,  Macneill  of  Barra,  Mac- 
donald of  Largie,  and  others  of  the  vassals  of  the 
Isles.  One  of  the  first  charters  granted  by  John  on 
his  becoming  Earl  of  Boss  was  that  to  the  Master 
of  Sutherland  of  the  lands  of  Easter  Kindeace  for 
his  homage  and  faithful  service,  and  among  the 
witnesses  are  the  names  of  several  members  of  the 
Island  Council.  The  Earl  of  Boss,  however,  did  not 
confine  himself  to  the  affairs  of  his  own  principality. 
It  would  have  been  well  if  he  had.     He  had  barely 

204  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

succeeded   to  his  patrimony  when   we  find  him  in 
league  with   the  Earls    of  Douglas  and  Crawford. 
These  noblemen  had  raised  the  standard  of  revolt 
in  the  Lowlands,  and  had  set  all  law  and  order  at 
defiance.     Both  were   selfish,  cruel,  and  ambitious, 
and  being  possessed  of  great  power  and  influence, 
their   rebellious    attitude    was   a   constant   menace, 
and    a    source   of  danger,    to    the    Scottish    State. 
Their   extensive    estates  gave    them   the   command 
of  a   powerful  army  of  military  vassals,   but   this 
only    stimulated    their    ambition    to    grasp    at    still 
greater  power,  and  they  seem  to  have  set  before 
themselves  no  less  a  task  than  the  dismemberment 
of  the  kingdom.     A  mutual  oath  was  entered  into 
between  them,  "  that  each  of  them  should  be  aiding 
and  assisting  against  all  the  world,  to  the  friends 
and    confederates    of    one    another."^       Into    this 
dangerous   league    the    young  Earl  of  Eoss  threw 
himself,  prompted,  no  doubt,  by  the  vain  ambition 
of  acquiring  yet  greater  power  and  adding  to  his 
already  far  too  extensive  domains.     Only  a  momen- 
tary lull,  and  the  heather   is  ablaze.     It  is  not  in 
the  north  alone  the  standard  of  revolt  is  raised,  the 
whole  kingdom  is  thrown  into  a  turmoil  of  rebellion. 
The  confederate   lords  are  acting  in  concert.     The 
signal  is  given,  and  the  dogs  of  war  are  let  loose. 
The  Earl  of  Ross,   who   had  married  the  daughter 
of  Sir  James  Livingston,  the   King  acting  in  the 
interesting  capacity  of  matchmaker,  was  no  doubt 
somewhat  disappointed  at  not  receiving  the  tocher, 
with  the  promise  of  which  His  Majesty  had  clinched 
the   matrimonial    bargain.       But  the  disgrace  and 
attainder  of  Livingston  intervening  was  the  cause, 
no  doubt,  why  the  royal  promise  was   not  imple- 

1  Buchanan,  vol.  II.,  p.  239,  Ed.  1821. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  205 

merited.  Neither  the  nonpayment  of  the  tocher, 
however,  nor  the  disgrace  of  Sir  James,  was  the 
prime  motive  for  the  conduct  of  the  Earl  of  Ross 
in  the  present  revolt  against  the  King's  authority. 
It  was,  as  we  have  seen,  part  of  a  great  scheme, 
into  which  John  had  entered  with  the  insurgent 
lords  of  Douglas  and  Crawford,  and  from  which  he 
hoped  to  gain  a  much  greater  prize  than  Elizabeth 
Livingston's  dowry. 

The  Island  Lord  summoned  his  vassals  to  his 
standard,  and  from  island  and  mainland  they  rally 
to  the  fray.  The  details  of  this  formidable  rebellion 
have  not  been  recorded,  but  the  great  outlines  of 
the  transaction  remain.  John,  at  the  head  of  a 
large  body  of  his  vassals,  marched  to  Inverness, 
and  without  much  opposition  took  the  Castle, 
which  having  strongly  garrisoned,  he  proceeded  to 
Urquhart.  He  claimed  the  lands  of  Urquhart  as 
part  of  the  Earldom  of  Hoss,  which  lands,  with  the 
Castle,  had  formerly  been  in  the  possession  of  his 
family.  The  stronghold  of  Urquhart,  which  was 
almost  impregnable  in  its  great  size  and  strength, 
was  now  held  for  the  King.  The  Island  Lord  at 
once  attacked  it,  and  after  a  short  but  stout  resist- 
ance on  the  part  of  the  garrison,  John  became 
master  of  the  situation.  His  father-in-law,  Living- 
ston, who  on  hearing  of  the  commotion  in  the 
North  had  escaped  from  the  King's  custody,  was 
made  governor  of  Urquhart  Castle  by  John. 
Intoxicated  with  the  success  which  attended  him 
at  Urquhart  and  Inverness,  he  marched  southwards 
through  Moray,  and  taking  the  Castle  of  Ruthven, 
another  royal  stronghold,  he  committed  it  to  the 
flames.  The  King,  who  had  evidently  not  yet 
discovered  the  treasonable  league  between  Douglas, 

206  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Crawford,  and  Macdonald,  devoted  all  his  energy 
and  resources  to  the  Southern  portion  of  his  kingdom. 
At  all  events,  no  immediate  step  was  taken  to 
punish  the  island  rebel,  and  that  potentate  remains 
defiantly  in  possession  of  his  recent  conquests. 
James  II.,  who  had  just  come  of  age,  was  not  by 
any  means  wanting  in  administrative  capacity  or 
military  ardour.  Both  were  very  soon  put  to  the 
test.  The  Southern  portion  of  his  kingdom,  torn 
and  distracted  by  the  feuds  of  the  Lowland  barons, 
had  become  a  fertile  region  of  all  confusion  and 
rapine.  It  required  the  possession  of  a  steady 
judgment  and  a  firm  hand  to  restore  order  and 
good  government,  and  the  energy  of  the  young 
monarch  was  taxed  to  the  utmost  in  the  attempt 
to  accomplish  this  desirable  result.  The  King's 
whole  attention,  therefore,  being  meanwhile  devoted 
to  his  unruly  subjects  in  the  South,  the  Earl  of  Boss 
and  his  clansmen  enjoy  the  benefit  of  complete 
immunity  from  the  royal  vengeance.  But  the  tide 
of  affairs,  after  a  brief  Interval,  took  a  sudden  turn, 
and  the  Island  Lord  appears  in  a  new  light.  The 
treasonable  league  between  Macdonald,  Douglas, 
and  Crawford,  very  probably  recently  renewed,  was 
at  length  discovered  by  the  King,  and  he  at  once 
realised  the  powerful  combination  arrayed  against 

Meanwhile  an  event  happened  which  changed  the 
King's  plans,  and  helped  to  break  up  the  league 
between  the  confederate  lords  in  an  unexpected 
manner.  The  Earl  of  Douglas,  on  his  return  to 
Scotland,  and  at  the  instigation  of  the  English 
Court,  put  himself  without  delay  in  communication 
with  Macdonald  and  Crawford,  and  in  order  to  carry 
out  the  elaborate  scheme  against  the  Scottish  State, 

JOHN    DE   ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  207 

Douglas  opened  the  campaign  by  summoning  his 
vassals  and  retainers  to  his  standard.  One  only,  it 
would  appear,  disobeyed  the  call,  and,  asserting  his 
independence,  refused  to  join  in  the  insurrection. 
This  bold  vassal,  whose  name  was  Maclellan,  was 
closely  allied  by  blood  to  Sir  Patrick  Gray,  a  courtier 
of  high  standing  in  the  King's  household.  Douglas, 
highly  incensed  at  the  conduct  of  his  retainer, 
ordered  his  arrest  and  imprisonment  at  Douglas 
Castle.  On  the  news  of  the  imprisonment  of 
Maclellan  reaching  the  Court,  the  King  at  once 
despatched  a  messenger  demanding  the  release  of 
the  prisoner.  Divining  the  purport  of  the  royal 
messenger's  visit,  and  knowing  well  that  his  presence 
betokened  no  good  omen,  Douglas  gave  orders 
privately  to  have  Maclellan  beheaded.  This  defiant 
conduct  on  the  part  of  Douglas,  so  utterly  regardless 
of  the  King's  authority,  roused  the  indignation  of 
James,  who  would  have  taken  immediate  steps  to 
bring  him  to  justice  if  he  had  not  dreaded  his 
power.  Meantime  the  King,  suppressing  his  indig- 
nation, prudently  determined  to  have  a  secret 
conference  with  Douglas  in  the  Castle  of  Stirling, 
ostensibly  with  the  purpose  of  making  a  better 
citizen  of  the  haughty  baron.  James  gave  his 
assurance  under  the  Great  Seal  for  the  personal 
safety  of  the  Earl.  Relying  on  the  Boyal  assurance, 
Douglas  sped  to  Stirling,  where  the  King  and  Court 
then  resided,  and  presented  himself  before  His 
Majesty.  The  King  remonstrated  with  him  for  his 
treasonable  proceedings,  and  especially  for  the  league 
he  had  entered  into  with  Macdonald  and  Crawford. 
The  proud  Lord  of  Douglas  listened  with  impatience 
to  the  reproaches  of  his  Sovereign,  and,  at  length, 
defied  James,  whereupon  the  King,  losing  all  control 

^0^  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  his  temper,  drew  his  dagger  and  stabbed  the  rebel 
lord.  The  courtiers  present  rushed  to  the  scene, 
and  in  a  few  moments  the  unfortunate  nobleman 
succumbed  to  their  vengeance.  It  is  impossible  to 
justify  the  conduct  of  the  King.  Whether  pre- 
meditated or  in  a  fit  of  temper,  no  justification  can 
be  pleaded  for  an  act  committed  in  direct  violation 
of  his  solemn  promise  to  protect  the  person  of  his 
victim.  There  can  be  but  little  sympathy,  on  the 
other  hand,  for  the  murdered  noblemao,  whose  own 
hands  were  not  free  from  blood,  and  whose  career 
throughout  was  marked  by  the  most  cruel  and 
tyrannical  actions. 

Thus  the  first  blow  was  aimed  at  the  Macdonald, 
Crawford,  and  Douglas  league,  but  it  did  not 
prove  effective.  The  leading  spirit  of  the  cabal  was 
removed  only  to  make  room  for  another  Douglas, 
whose  chief  aim  was  to  perpetuate  the  policy 
of  his  house  towards  the  Scottish  State,  The 
aspect  of  affairs  in  the  Highlands  present  a  very 
favourable  contrast  to  the  state  of  matters  in 
Lowland  Scotland.  It  would  be  difficult  to 
conceive  a  picture  darker  in  its  outlines  than 
that  drawn  by  the  hand  of  a  well-known  historian 
of  this  period  in  the  history  of  Scotland  south  of 
the  Forth.  The  history  of  the  Highlands  may 
be  searched  in  vain  for  a  parallel,  often  as  that 
history  has  been  perverted  to  suit  the  prejudices 
of  the  Lowland  mind.  The  cold-blooded  murders, 
the  selfish  schemes  to  gratify  family  ambition,  the 
cruel  oppression  and  tyranny,  which  stain  the 
whole  social  fabric,  are  on  a  scale  unequalled  by 
the  darkest  period  in  the  history  of  Celtic  Scotland. 
The  governing  principle  in  such  a  state  of  society 
invariably    is   to    keep    and    acquire    as    much    as 


'i^cTbr^c  if  tij^fe^ 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  209 

possible  whether  by  fair  means  or  foul.  Judged 
from  this  point  of  view,  the  present  attitude  of 
the  Island  Lord  may  well  be  justified. 

The  temporary  discomfiture  of  the  Douglas  party, 
and  the  strong  measures  taken  by  the  King  and  his 
advisers  to  put  down  the  rebellion  of  Crawford,  were 
not  without  their  effect  on  the  Earl  of  Hoss.  The 
King  appointed  the  Earl  of  Huntly,  a  nobleman  of 
great  courage  and  ability,  lieutenant-general  of  the 
kingdom,  and  granted  him  a  commission  to  proceed 
against  the  rebel  Earls  of  Crawford  and  Ross.  Huntly 
devoted  his  attention,  in  the  first  place,  to  Crawford, 
whom  he  defeated  in  a  pitched  battle  near  the  town 
of  Brechin.  Though  not  personally  present  in  this 
engagement,  the  Earl  of  Boss  sent  a  contingent  of 
clansmen  to  the  assistance  of  the  Earl  of  Crawford. 
Huntly's  plan  of  campaign  was  to  attack  the  rebel 
lords  one  after  the  other,  and  defeat  them  in  turn. 
Macdonald,  who  still  held  his  own  in  the  North, 
realising  his  danger,  began  to  make  elaborate 
preparations  to  resist  the  threatened  invasion  of 
the  King's  lieutenant.  The  formidable  defence 
made  by  the  Earl  of  Boss  struck  terror  into  the 
heart  of  the  invading  host,  and  Huntly,  who  had 
penetrated  as  far  as  Moray,  retired  in  dismay.  No 
further  attempt  was  made,  at  least  meanwhile,  to 
subdue  the  Northern  potentate.  The  Earl  of 
Huntly's  services  were  required  elsewhere,  and 
the  Douglasses  seem  to  have  taken  up  the  whole 
attention  of  the  King.  In  any  case,  the  Earl  of 
Boss  still  continued  to  hold  the  castles  of  Inverness 
and  Urquhart,  and  suffered  no  diminution  of  his 
power  in  the  North.  Though  in  league  with 
Crawford  and  Douglas,  he  cannot  be  said  to  have 
taken  an  active  part  with  them  in  the  recent  revolt 


210  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

against  the  Scottish  Government.  He  prudently 
remained  at  home,  and  allowed  his  confederates  to 
fight  for  their  own  hand.  The  King  was  too  busy 
elsewhere  to  attack  him  in  the  North,  and  the 
Island  Lord  was  a  formidable  problem  at  any 

Though  free  from  Southern  interference,  the 
Earl  of  Ross  was  not  without  his  troubles  at  home. 
Ever  since  the  Macdonald  family  settled  in  Ross- 
shire,  the  neighbouring  clans,  and  even  some  of  the 
vassals  of  the  Earldom,  looked  with  a  jealous  eye 
on  their  growing  power  and  influence.  Chief  among 
these  were  the  Mackenzies,  at  this  time  of  no  great 
account  as  a  clan,  the  Mackays,  and  the  Suther- 
lands.  Sir  Robert  Gordon,  in  his  "  Earldom  of 
Sutherland,"  gives  accounts  of  the  clan  battles,  or 
skirmishes,  that  took  place  about  this  time  in  the 
North.  He  records  how  the  Earl  of  Ross,  accom- 
panied by  a  force  of  between  500  and  600  clansmen, 
had  the  presumption  to  invade  Sutherland  and 
encamp  near  the  Castle  of  Skibo.  Macdonald's 
object  in  invading  Sutherland  seems  to  have  been 
to  harry  the  country,  injure  the  inhabitants,  and 
carry  off  as  much  spoil  as  circumstances  would 
permit.  John,  Earl  of  Sutherland,  however,  being 
far  above  soiling  his  own  hands  in  a  petty  quarrel 
between  his  vassals  and  Macdonald  of  the  Isles,  sent 
a  Neill  Murray  (the  descent  of  Neili  still  remains  an 
open  question)  with  a  company  of  the  brave  men  of 
Sutherland  to  give  battle  to  the  invading  Macdonald 
host.  The  issue  was  not  for  a  moment  uncertain. 
The  Macdonalds,  after  a  sharp  conflict,  were  put  to 
flight,  and  they  beat  a  hasty  retreat  to  Ross  witliout 
spoil.  Though  for  the  time  repulsed,  the  Mac- 
donalds were  not  quite  annihilated,  and  recuperating 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  2ll 

their  exhausted  energies,  they  made  another 
incursion  into  Sutherland  in  the  hope  of  repairing 
the  loss  they  sustained  at  the  hands  of  Neill  Murray 
at  Skibo.  Penetrating  into  Strathnaver,  they  were 
met  on  the  sands  of  Strathfleet  by  Robert  Suther- 
land, brother  of  the  Earl  of  Sutherland,  at  the  head 
of  "  some  men  assembled  in  all  haste."  Here  the 
Macdonalds  were  again  defeated,  which  was  to  be 
expected,  and  believing  discretion  to  be  the  better 
part  of  valour,  they  never  again  invaded  the 
territory  of  the  great  Eaii  John  of  Sutherland.  Sir 
Robert  Gordon  is,  of  course,  writing  up  the  Earls  of 
Sutherland,  and,  in  the  process,  he  considers  it  to 
be  his  duty  by  way  of  contrast  to  write  down  all 
who  oppose  themselves  to  his  family  gods.  From 
the  well-known  character  of  his  book,  it  is  not 
necessary  to  enter  here  into  any  detailed  criticism 
of  its  value  historically.  His  clan  stories  and  gene- 
alogies, so  persistently  repeated  by  others,  should 
be  received  with  due  caution,  and,  if  in  any  way 
associated  with  the  family  of  Sutherland,  for  what 
they  are  worth,  which,  in  our  opinion,  is  very  little. 
Sir  Robert  Gordon  was  a  family  seanachie,  and  his  book 
is  marked  by  the  blemishes  that  generally  taint  such 
works  and  render  them  often  practically  valueless  as 
guides  to  historical  research.  It  is  amusing  to  read 
the  glowing  accounts  given  by  this  historian  of  the 
prowess  in  the  field,  the  eloquence  in  council,  and 
the  domestic  virtues  of  his  Earls  of  Sutherland,  most 
of  which  unfortunately  are  contradicted  by  the  stern 
facts  of  history.  The  independence  of  Scotland 
would  have  been  delayed,  it  is  hard  to  say  how 
long,  if  the  prowess  of  the  Earl  of  Sutherland  had 
not  secured  it  for  ever  on  the  bloody  field  of 
Bannockburn.      An   Earl  of  Sutherland  was  never 

212  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

wanting  when  the  welfare  of  the  realm  was  at  stake, 
and  this  country  will  never  know  all  it  owes  to  that 
great  family  of  which  Sir  Robert  Gordon  was  so 
faithful  a  chronicler. 

There  is  no  doubt  some  slight  foundation  for  Sir 
Robert  Gordon's  stories  of  the  clan  feuds  of  tiiis 
period.  Macdonald  of  Lochalsh,  Hugh  of  Sleat, 
and  Roderick  MacAUan  of  Clanranald,  were  always 
ready,  when  not  engaged  against  the  Saxon,  to 
pounce  upon  their  Celtic  neighbours.  The  Munroes, 
the  Rosses,  the  Mackenzies,  the  Frasers,  and  others, 
were  quite  as  ready  to  give  them  a  warm  welcome. 
Nothing  is  more  likely  to  have  happened  than  a 
series  of  plundering  raids  by  Roderick  of  Clanranald 
and  the  other  leaders  of  the  clan  into  Sutherland, 
and  we  can  imagine  without  much  effort  the  con- 
sternation of  the  natives  at  the  approach  of  these 
plundering  bands.  We  confess  to  finding  it  some- 
wliat  difficult  to  imagine  any  such  scenes  of 
siaaghter  as  are  alleged,  in  Sir  Robert  Gordon's 
pa.ges,  to  have  been  witnessed  at  Skibo  and  on 
the  sands  of  Strathfleet.  CWachs,  however,  were 
common  to  both  Highlands  and  Lowlands ;  but  so 
far  as  the  annals  of  the  time  furnish  us  with  any 
hints,  this  period  was,  on  the  whole,  an  uncommonly 
quiet  and  prosperous  one  in  the  history  of  the  Clan 
Cholla.  The  quiet  periods  in  the  history  of  the 
Highlands  and  Islands,  consisting  of  those  intervals, 
generally  short,  during  which  the  Lords  of  the 
Isles  and  their  vassals  maintained  friendly 
relationships  with  the  Scottish  Government  were, 
however,  only  relatively  tranquil.  It  was  seldom 
the  House  of  Isla  was  free  from  those  domestic 
feuds  which  bulk  so  largely  in  the  traditions  of 
the    country.       The    seanachies,    embodying    these 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  213 

traditions  in  their  manuscripts,  give  us  vivid, 
if  sometimes  exaggerated,  pictures  of  the  marauding 
and  piratical  expeditions  engaged  in  by  the  restless 
spirits  of  those  times.  The  stories  told  by  some  of  the 
seanachies,  when  brought  under  the  light  of  authentic 
history,  are  found  in  many  instances  to  be  wonder- 
fully reliable.  Both  MacVuirich  and  Hugh  Mac- 
donald  refer  to  a  raid  on  the  Orkney  Islands  by 
the  young  men  of  the  Isles,  led  by  Hugh  Macdonald 
of  Sleat,  brother  of  John,  Earl  of  Boss.^  Authentic 
records  of  the  time  not  only  confirm  this  raid  but 
refer  to  a  series  of  other  raids  on  Orkney,  and  other 
Norse  possessions,  by  the  men  of  the  Isles.  In  a 
manifesto  by  the  bailies  of  Kirkwall  and  community 
of  Orkney  the  complaint  is  made  that  the  Orkneys 
were  habitually  overrun  by  bands  of  Islesmen  sent 
thither  by  the  Earl  of  Ross,  designed  as  "ah  antiquo 
inimicus  capitalist  These  invasions  were  of  yearly 
occurrence  during  the  reign  of  James  II.  The 
Islanders,  according  to  the  manifesto,  plundered, 
burned,  and  ravaged  the  country,  and  carried  off 
cattle  and  whatever  else  they  could  lay  their  hands 
on.^  In  a  letter  by  William  Tulloch,  Bishop  of 
Orkney,  dated  28th  June,  1461,  the  same  complaint 
is  made  against  the  men  of  the  Isles,  and  the  Bishop 
alludes  to  the  efforts  which  he  was  then  making  to 
come  to  an  arrangement  with  the  Earl  of  Ross  to 
put  a  stop  to  these  marauding  expeditions.^  What 
success  attended  these  laudable  efforts  on  the  part 
of  the  good  Bishop  history  does  not  record.  The 
Earl  of  Ross  and  his  Islesmen  are  soon  required 

^  Hugh  Macdonald  in  Collect?.nea  do  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  306  ;  MacVuirich 
in  Reliq.  Celt.,  p.  213. 

^  Diplomatarium  Norwegicuni  X.,  606. 
3  Ibidem,  599. 

214  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

elsewhere,   and   little   time  is  left  for  raids,   naval 
or  other,  in  the  North. 

The  Earl  of  Douglas,  who  had  long  kept  the 
Lowlands  in  a  perfect  turmoil  of  civil  war,  was 
finally  defeated  by  the  King's  forces  at  Arkinholme, 
in  Annandale.  Disappointed  of  expected  English 
aid,  and  having  been  declared  traitor  to  the  Scottish 
State,  Douglas,  as  a  last  resort,  betook  himself  to 
Argyleshire,  where,  in  the  Castle  of  Dunstaffnage, 
he  was  received  by  Donald  Balloch  Macdonald, 
who  may  not  inappropriately  be  called  the 
lieutenant-general  of  the  Isles. ^  Here  the  Earl 
of  Ross,  who  had  come  from  the  North,  and 
Douglas  met  in  solenni  conference  to  decide  what 
steps  should  be  taken  in  the  present  emergency. 
The  result  of  their  deliberations  was  soon  apparent. 
Both,  with  equal  sincerity,  vowed  vengeance  on  the 
royal  party.  Douglas  having  persuaded  the  Island 
Lord,  apparently  without  much  difficulty,  to  espouse 
his  cause,  and  thus  set  the  ball  a-rolling,  hastened 
across  the  border  into  England,  where  he  was  cordially 
received  by  the  Duke  of  York.  Macdonald  imme- 
diately prepared  for  an  invasion  of  the  King's  lands, 
and  summoning  his  clansmen  and  vassals,  he  soon 
gathered  to  his  standard  a  force  5000  strong. 
The  command  of  this  force  he  bestowed  on  the 
veteran  Donald  Balloch,  whose  prowess  in  many  a 
field  had  been  the  admiration  alike  of  friend  and 
foe.  A  fleet  of  100  galleys  was  equipped  for  the 
expedition,  and  Donald,  directing  his  course  towards 
the  mainland,  proceeded  to  Inverkip,  where  he 
landed  his  force.  There  appears  to  have  been  no 
opposition  oftered  to  this  formidable  armament,  and 
Donald  was  allowed,  not  only  to  land  unmolested, 

^  Lives  of  the  Douglases,  p.  203.     Origines  Par.  Scotise  Appendix,  p.  826. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  215 

but  on  penetrating  into  the  country  he  carried  fire 
and  sword  everywhere  he  went  with  impunity. 
From  Inverkip  he  directed  his  course  towards  the 
island  of  Arran,  which,  with  the  Cumbraes  and 
Bute,  he  invaded  in  turn,  burning  and  plundering 
wherever  he  went.  Donald's  object  primarily,  how- 
ever, was  not  plunder  but  revenge,  and  this  he  now 
gratified  to  the  full.  After  besieging  the  Castle  of 
Brodick  and  burning  it  to  the  ground,  he  next 
attacked  the  Castle  of  Bothesay,  which  having 
taken,  he  made  himself  master  of  Bute.  According 
to  the  Auchinleck  Chronicle,  he  carried  away 
immense  spoil  from  this  and  the  adjacent  islands 
and  mainland,  includino^  a  hundred  bolls  of  meal,  a 
hundred  bolls  of  malt,  a  hundred  marts  and  a 
hundred  marks  of  silver,  five  hundred  horses,  ten 
thousand  oxen  and  kine,  and  more  than  a  thousand 
sheep  and  goats.  The  loss  in  lives  and  property 
does  not  appear  to  have  been  very  great  in  pro- 
portion to  the  strength  of  the  invading  forces.  If 
we  are  to  believe  the  chronicler,  there  were  slain 
only  "  of  good  men  fifteen,  of  women  two  or  three, 
and  of  children  three  or  four."^  It  w^ould  appear 
from  this  that  Donald's  object  was  not  so  much  to 
punish  the  natives  as  the  superiors  of  the  lands 
which  he  had  invaded,  and  according,  therefore,  to 
the  standard  of  the  time,  the  Island  leader,  tempering 
his  revenge  with  mercy,  behaved  in  the  circum- 
stances in  a  manner  worthy  of  some  commendation. 
Donald's  conduct,  however,  in  the  episode  which 
followed,  and  with  which  his  naval  raid  was  con- 
cluded, is  deserving  of  the  severest  condemnation. 
Lauder,  the  Bishop  of  Lismore,  a  Lowlander,  had 
evidently  through  over-zeal  in  the  exercise   of  his 

^  Auchinleck  Chronicle. 

216  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

sacred  calling  made  himself  obnoxious  to  the  men  of 
Argyle.     Instead  of  going  cautiously  to  work,  and 
making  himself  acquainted  with  the  mode  of  living 
of  the  people,  with  the  oversight  of  whom  he  had 
been  entrusted,  he  exercised  discipline  v^ith  a  strong 
hand,    and   sought    to   bring   the    inhabitants   into 
conformity  with  the  ways  and  manners  of  the  South. 
This   he  found  by  no  means  an  easy  task.       The 
people,  of  whose  language  and  manners  the  bishop 
was  utterly  ignorant,  stubbornly  resisted  his  reforms, 
and  were  driven  by  his  high-handed  policy  to  com- 
mit outrages  on  his  person  and  ravage  and  plunder 
the  sacred  edifices  of  his  diocese.     The  bishop  had 
besides,  as  one  of  the  King's  Privy  Council,  afiixed 
his  seal  to  the  instrument  of  forfeiture  against  the 
Earl  of  Douglas,  and  this  only  added  another  to  his 
already  many  offences  against  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg. 
Donald  now  had  his  opportunity  of  punishing  the 
obnoxious  prelate,  and  without  delay  he  proceeded 
to  Lismore,  where  the  bishop  resided,  and  besieged 
him  in  his  sanctuary.      After   ravaging  the  island 
with  fire  and  sword,  he  put  to  death  the  principal 
adherents  of  the  bishop,  in  all  likelihood  natives  of 
the   Lowlands,   while    the   prelate   himself  escaped 
with    his   life   by   taking   refuge   in  the   Cathedral 
Church  of  his  diocese.     Without  wishing  to  condone 
the  conduct  of  the  Island  leader  in  any  way,  it  may 
be  permissible  to  say  that  this  prelate,  by  his  short- 
sighted and  unwdse  policy,  had  himself  done  nmch 
to  provoke  this  and  other  outrages  on  his  sacred 
calling  and  jurisdiction.       That,  however,  does  not 
warrant    the    outrages    committed    on    this    or    on 
former    occasions    on    the    Bishop    of  Argyle,    and 
Donald  Balloch  nowhere  comes  before  us  in  a  worse 
light  than  in  his  expedition  to  Lismore. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  217 

No  immediate  action  seems  to  have  been  taken 
by  the  King  to  punish  the  rebel  Lord  of  Dunnyveg, 
or  his  chief,  the  Earl  of  Ross,  in  the  recent  treason- 
able proceedings.  In  Argyle  and  the  Isles  it  would 
have  been  vain  to  attack  them.  The  Scottish  navy 
at  this  time  was  not  fit  to  cope  with  the  strong 
maritime  power  of  the  Isles,  and  this  probably  was 
the  principal  reason  why  the  King  thought  it 
prudent  not  to  hazard  an  expedition  to  Argyle. 
In  any  case  there  is  no  record  of  the  pains  and 
penalties  which  should  have  fallen  on  the  devoted 
head  of  the  sacrilegious  spoiler  of  the  sacred  Island 
of  Lismore.  One  incident  may  be  recorded  which 
throws  light  on  the  turmoil  into  which  the  Douglas- 
Macdonald  league  had  thrown  the  Highlands  and 
Islands.  Feeling  no  longer  safe  in  these  regions, 
John  of  Isla's  consort,  the  Lady  Elizabeth  Living- 
ston, escaped  with  all  haste  from  the  country,  and, 
finding  her  way  to  Court,  threw  herself  on  the 
protection  of  the  King.  According  to  one  of  the 
Scottish  historians,  this  lady  married  the  Island 
Lord  with  the  laudable  view  of  toning  down  his 
rugged  disposition  and  making  him  a  loyal  Scottish 
subject.  In  this,  it  would  appear,  the  Lady 
Elizabeth  utterly  failed,  and  her  return  to  Court  at 
the  present  juncture  is  a  clear  indication  of  the 
policy  of  the  Earl  of  Ross  towards  the  executive 
government,  as  it  also  makes  only  too  apparent  the 
wide  gulf  that  separated  racially  the  North  from  the 
South.  The  King  received  the  Countess  of  Ross 
with  much  cordiality,  and  a  suitable  maintenance 
having  been  assigned  her,  she  appears  to  have 
remained  at  Court  during  the  remainder  of  her  life. 

The  Earl  of  Ross,  weakened  by  the  defeat  of  the 
Pouglas  party,  finally  sent  messengers  to  the  King 

218  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

offering  to  repair  the  wrongs  he  had  committed  on 
his  majesty's  heges,  and  promised  in  anticipation  of 
the  royal  clemency  being  extended  to  him  to  atone 
with  good  deeds  in  the  future  for  his  rebellious 
conduct  in  the  past.  The  Earl  well  knew  that  his 
wisest  policy  in  the  present  state  of  affairs  was  to 
make  his  peace  with  the  King.  He  could  not  very 
long  stand  out  in  his  present  attitude  and  expect 
much  success  to  attend  his  efforts  in  opposition  to 
the  Scottish  Government.  But  he  appears  to  be 
perfectly  sincere  in  his  desire  to  be  reconciled  to  the 
King,  and  there  is  reason  to  believe  that  in  this 
loyal  attitude  he  would  have  remained,  if  evil 
counsel,  to  which  he  had  been  at  all  times 
susceptible,  had  not  prevailed.  The  King  at  first 
was  not  disposed  to  treat  with  John  on  any  terms, 
but  finally,  by  a  judicious  union  of  firmness  and 
lenity,  and  dreading  another  insurrection  in  the 
Highlands,  his  Majesty  granted  the  Northern 
potentate  a  period  of  probation  during  which  he  was 
to  shew  the  sincerity  of  his  penitence.  Mean- 
while the  King  summoned  a  meeting  of  Parliament 
to  consider  the  affairs  of  his  realm.  Whether  the 
Earl  of  Hoss  was  present  at  this  meeting,  or  was 
represented,  does  not  appear  very  clear,  but  it  seems 
that  much  attention  was  devoted  to  the  Highlands 
and  Islands,  and  that  many  good  and  salutary 
laws  were  passed  for  the  welfare  and  peace  of  the 
realm  generally.  The  Earl  of  Boss,  it  would  appear, 
is  now  on  his  good  behaviour,  for,  according  to  the 
good  Bishop  Lesley,  the  King  in  this  Parliament 
"  maid  sic  moyennis  with  the  principallis  captanis  of 
the  His  and  hielands  that  the  same  wes  als  peacable 
as  ony  parte  of  the  Lawlandis,  and  obedient  as  weill 
in  paying  of  all  dewties  of  thair  landis  to  the  King, 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  219 

als  redy  to  sarve  in  wearis  with  greit  cumpanyis."^ 
"  The  principallis  cajiitanis  of  the  His,"  including  no 
doubt  the  hero  of  the  recent  naval  raid,  had  from  all 
appearance  been  suddenly  converted,  but  lilie  most 
sudden  conversions,  there  do  not  appear  to  have 
followed  any  results  of  a  permanent  kind. 

Notwitiistanding  the  friendly  relations  in  which 
the  Earl  of  Ross  now  stood  to  the  Crown,  the 
King,  in  a  Parliament  held  at  Edinburgh  in  1455, 
deprived  him  of  both  the  castles  of  Inverness  and 
Urquhart.^  Next  year,  however,  the  Castle  of 
Urquhart,  together  with  the  lands  of  Urquhart 
and  Glenmoriston,  were  granted  to  John  at  an 
annual  rent  of  £100.^  To  these  were  added  at 
the  same  thne  the  lands  of  Abertarff  and  Strath- 
errick,*  and  to  still  further  confirm  the  loyalty  of 
the  Island  Lord,  the  King  conferred  upon  him  the 
lands  of  Grennane  in  Ayrshire.^ 

What  conspicuous  services  were  rendered  to  the 
State  by  the  Earl  of  E-oss  after  his  sudden  con- 
version history  does  not  record,  but  his  behaviour 
seems  to  have  been  such  as  to  warrant  us  in 
believing  in  the  sincerity  of  his  repentance.  The 
King  himself  must  have  received  some  proof  of 
his  loyalty,  for  in  the  year  1457  His  Majesty 
appointed     John     one     of    the     Wardens    of     the 

^  Historic  of  Scotland  by  John  Lesley,  Bishop  of  Ross,  p.  27. 

^  "  Thir  ar  ye  lordschippis  ande  castellis  annext  to  ye  croune 

Item  ye  hous  of  Innurness  and  Ureharde  and  ye  lordschippis  of  thame  and  ye 
lordschippe  of  Abernethy  with  ye  wattles  maylis  lunnerness  togidder  with  ye 
baronyis  of  Ureharde  glenorquhane  bouiche  bonochare  anuache  Edderdaill 
callyt  Ardmanache  peety  brachly  Stratlierue  with  ye  pertineutis." — Acta 
Parliameutorum  Jacobi  II.,  vol.  II.,  p.  42. 

2  Exchequer  Eolls,  vol.  V.,  p.  217. 

*  "  Et  allocate  eidem  de  firmis  terrarum  de  Abertarf  et  Strathardock  de 
termino  huju^j  compoti,  concessarum  dicto  comiti  Rossie  apud  Tnvernys  per 
dominum  nostrum  regem." — Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  V.,  p.  222, 

^  Ibidem,  vol.  VI.,  236. 

220  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Marches,  an  office  of  great  importance  and  respon- 
sibility/ No  doubt  the  King's  policy  was  to 
attach  John  to  his  person  and  Government.  In 
bestowing  upon  him  this  office  of  trust  under  his 
Government,  the  King  evinced  his  desire  to  cure 
the  northern  potentate  of  his  rebellious  tendencies, 
and  wean  him  from  the  influence  of  those  factions 
whicb  had  been  so  baneful  in  the  past.  As  a 
further  proof  of  his  confidence,  the  King  appointed 
John  with  other  noblemen  to  conclude  a  truce  with 

The  history  of  the  Highlands  during  the  next 
few  years,  so  far  as  the  Earl  of  Ross  is  concerned, 
is  almost  a  blank.  The  only  reference  to  him  in  his 
official  capacity  which  we  have  been  able  to  find  is 
in  a  document  preserved  in  the  Kilravock  Charter 
Chest,  and  which  bears  that  the  Earl  granted  Hose 
of  Kilravock  permission  to  "  big  ande  upmak  a  toure 
of  fens."  The  document,  which  is  written  in  the 
vernacular  of  the  15th  century,  is  in  the  following 
terms  : — 

"  Joline  of  Yle,  Erie  of  Ross  ande  Lord  of  the  His,  to  all  ande 
sundry  to  quhais  knawlage  thir  our  present  letteris  sail  come ; 
Greeting  :  Witte  us  to  have  gevyn  ande  grantit  and  be  thir  pre- 
sent letteris  gevis  ande  grantis,  our  full  power  ande  licence  till 
our  luffid  cosing,  man  ande  tennand,  Huchone  de  Roos,  baron  of 
Kylravok,  to  fund,  big,  ande  upmak  a  toure  of  fens,  with  barmkin 
ande  bataling,  wpon  quhat  place  of  strynth  him  best  likis,  within 
the  barony  of  Kylravok,  without  ony  contradiction  n  or  demavnd, 
questionn,  or  any  obiection  to  put  in  contrar  of  him  or  his  ayris, 
be  vs  or  our  ayris,  for  the  said  toiire  ande  barmkyn  making,  with 
the  bataling,  now  or  in  tyme  to  cum :  In  witness  hereof,  ve  haf 
gert  our  sele  to  ther  letteris  be  affixt  at  Inuernys,  the  achtend  day 
of  Februar,  the  yer  of  Godd  a  thousand  four  hundretd  sixte  yer." 

1  Rymer  XL,  397.        "  Ibidem,  397, 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  221 

The  time  soon  arrived  when  the  Earl  of  Ross, 
emerging'  from  liis  temporary  obscurity,  acts  a  part 
very  different  from  that  which  he  was  accustomed 
to  play  on  the  stage  of  Scottish  history.  In 
the  year  1460,  James  II.  entered  on  his  campaign 
against  England.  The  truce  between  the  tw^o 
countries  to  which,  as  we  have  seen,  John,  Earl  of 
Hoss,  was  a  party  had  not  lasted  long.  The  King 
opened  his  campaign  by  attacking  the  Castle  of 
Roxburgh,  an  important  frontier  stronghold,  then, 
and  for  long  prior  to  this  time,  in  the  possession  of 
the  English.  Here  he  was  joined  by  the  Earl  of 
Ross  at  the  head  of  3000  clansmen,  "all  armed  in 
the  Highland  fashion,  with  habergeons,  bows  and 
axes,  and  promised  to  the  King,  if  he  pleased  to  pass 
any  further  in  the  bounds  of  England,  that  he  and 
his  company  should  pass  a  large  mile  afore  the  rest 
of  the  host,  and  take  upon  them  the  first  press  and 
dint  of  the  battle."^  The  Island  Lord  was  received 
with  great  cordiality  by  the  King,  who  commanded 
him,  as  a  mark  of  distinction,  to  remain  near  his 
person,  while  his  clansmen  meanwhile  set  themselves 
to  the  congenial  task  of  harrying  the  English  borders. 
The  unfortunate  and  melancholy  death  of  the  King 
from  the  bursting  of  a  cannon  at  the  very  com- 
mencement of  the  siege  of  Roxburgh  virtually 
brought  the  campaign  against  England  to  an  end, 
and  the  Earl  of  Ross  had  no  opportunity  of  proving 
his  own  fidelity,  or  the  courage  and  bravery  of  his 
clansmen.  The  untimely  death  of  the  King  in  the 
flower  of  his  youth  and  at  the  very  beginning  of  his 
vigorous  manhood  exposed  the  country  once  more  to 
the  dangers  attendant  on  a  long  minority.  James, 
during   his  comparatively  short  reign,  had  proved 

^  Lindsay's  History  of  Scotland, 

222  THE    CLAJSr    DONALD. 

himself  a  wise  and  judicious  ruler.  Of  this  we  have 
ample  evidence  in  the  success  which  attended  his 
efforts  in  destroying  the  overgrown  power  of  the 
house  of  Douglas,  and  attaching  to  his  interests  such 
men  as  the  Earl  of  Ross. 

Shortly  after  the  death  of  the  King,  on  the  23rd 
of  February,  1461,  a  Parliament  was  held  at  Edin- 
burgh to  consider  the  affairs  of  the  realm,  when  the 
Queen -mother  was  appointed  regent  during  the 
minority  of  her  son,  the  heir  to  the  throne,  then 
only  in  his  seventh  year.  This  Parliament,  which 
was  largely  attended  by  all  the  estates  of  the  realm, 
was  also  attended  by  John,  Earl  of  Ross,  and  many 
other  Highland  chiefs.  Though  no  detailed  record 
of  it  remains,  we  can  gather  from  the  main  outlines 
of  the  proceedings  the  elements  of  civil  commotion 
in  the  near  future.  Parliament  had  no  sooner  dis- 
solved than  an  insurrection  broke  out  in  Argyleshire, 
the  fertile  region  of  dissensions.  The  cause  of  the 
commotion  w^as  a  quarrel  between  Allan  Macdougall, 
of  the  house  of  Lorn,  and  his  brother,  John  Ciar 
Macdougall.  Allan,  who  was  a  nephew  of  Donald 
Balloch  Macdonald,  lay  claim  to  certain  lands  in  the 
possession  of  John  Ciar.  This  claim  the  latter 
resisted,  but  he  was  overpowered  by  Allan,  and 
imprisoned  by  him  in  a  dungeon  on  the  island  of 
Kerrera.  This  was  the  signal  for  a  rising  on  the 
part  of  the  friends  on  both  sides,  and  a  bloody 
conflict  ensued.  Allan  was  defeated,  but  as  a  result 
of  the  commotion,  the  whole  Western  Highlands 
were  thrown  into  the  wildest  confusion.^  In  the 
southern  portion  of  the  kingdom  the  aspect  of 
affairs  presents  no  brighter  prospect  for  the  future 

^  Buchanan,  vol.  II.,  279.     Auchinleck  Chronicle,  58. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  223 

prosperity  of  the  country.  The  welfare  of  the 
nation  is  sacrificed  to  the  private  ambition  of 
factious  nobles. 

The  Earl-  of  Ross,  whose  loyalty,  as  we  have  seen, 
was  so  conspicuous  during  the  latter  portion  of  the 
reign  of  the  late  King,  now  that  that  strong 
personality  is  removed  from  the  helm  of  stabe, 
allows  himself  once  more  to  become  the  victim  of 
the  Douglas  faction.  By  a  judicious  combination  of 
firmness  and  moderation,  the  King  had  disarmed 
the  enmity  of  the  Island  Lord,  and  had  James 
not  been  cut  off  so  prematurely,  there  is  every 
reason  to  believe  that  John  would  have  continued 
loyal  to  the  Scottish  throne.  The  death  of  the 
King,  however,  soon  plunged  the  Scottish  State  into 
the  difficulties  that  are  always  inseparable  from  a 
minoritv.  It  will  be  remembered  that  the  last  Earl 
of  Douglas  had  been  forfeited  in  all  his  estates,  and 
was  now  undergoing  his  sentence  of  banishment  at 
the  Court  of  Edward  IV.  Douglas  had,  in  the  days 
of  his  prosperity,  maintained  friendly  intercourse 
with  the  family  of  York,  and  now  that  Edward  IV. 
seemed  in  a  fair  way  to  crush  the  House  of 
Lancaster,  Douglas  would  fain  hope  that  the  power 
and  influence  of  England  might  be  directed  towards 
the  restoration  of  his  lost  territories  and  position  in 
Scotland.  Meantime  the  banished  Earl  watched 
with  deepest  interest  the  passing  phases  of  political 
feeling  between  the  English  and  Scottish  crowns, 
and  he  left  no  means  unused  to  win  his  old  aUy, 
the  Earl  of  Ross,  from  the  friendly  relation  in 
which  he  now  stood  towards  the  Government  of 
the  northern  kingdom.  As  had  often  happened 
in  the  past,  the  difficulties  which  England  had  to 

224  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

deal  with  at  home  and  in  France  had  hitherto 
proved  a  barrier  against  active  interposition  in  the 
affairs  of  Scotland,  and  the  Wars  of  the  Roses  had 
particularly  absorbed  all  the  energies  of  the  House 
of  York.  In  the  year  to  which  we  have  come, 
however,  the  two  events  already  referred  to,  the 
accession  of  Edward  lY.  to  the  English  throne 
and  the  death  of  James  II.  of  Scotland,  seemed 
to  shed  a  gleam  of  hope  on  the  broken  fortunes 
of  the  exiled  Earl.  Edward  lent  his  countenance 
to  the  Douglas  scheme  all  the  more  readily  because 
the  Scottish  Court  had  afforded  an  asylum  to  his 
opponent,  Henry  of  Lancaster,  whose  defeat  at 
Taunton  had  driven  him  to  Scotland,  while  it 
placed  Edward  on  the  English  throne.  Various 
schemes  were  devised  in  Scotland  for  the  restora- 
tion of  the  exiled  English  monarch,  all  of  which 
proved  futile.  To  counteract  these  and  divert  the 
Scottish  rulers  from  their  object  and  neutralise 
their  efforts,  Edward  lent  a  willing  hand  to  Douglas 
in  his  desperate  scheme.  The  King  of  Scotland  was 
a  child,  and  past  experience  had  taught  that  a 
Scottish  regency,  accompanied  as  it  often  was  by 
faction  and  conspiracy,  would  afford  scope  for  the 
execution  of  such  a  scheme  as  Douglas  might  devise 
for  his  restoration  to  the  honours  which  he  had 

The  time  had  evidently  come  when  the  old  league 
with  the  Macdonald  Family  might  be  revived  in  a 
bolder  spirit  and  with  more  ample  scope.  In  these 
circumstances  we  are  not  surprised  to  find  that  a 
few  weeks  after  the  King's  death  the  first  overtures 
are  made  to  the  Earl  of  Ross  for  the  formation  of 
an   offensive   and   defensive   league   with    England. 

JOHN    DE   ILE,    EARL    OF   ROSS.  225 

That  the  Enghsh  Government  was  the  first  to  move 
in  the  matter  is  evidenced  by  the  fact  that  the  writ 
empowering  the  Commissioners  from  England  to 
treat  with  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  was  issued  on  the 
22nd  of  June,  1461,  while  the  ambassadors  from  the 
Isles  were  not  formally  commissioned  until  the  19th 
October  following.  The  English  Commissioners  to 
the  Isles  were  the  banished  Earl  of  Douglas,  his 
brother,  John  Douglas  of  Balveny,  Sir  William 
"Wells,  Dr  John  Kingscote,  and  John  Stanley. 
The  following  is  the  text  of  the  writ  appointing 
the  English  Commissioners  : — 

"  Ambassiatores  Assign antur  ad  Tract andum  cum  Comitb 


Rex  omnibus  ad  quos  (fee.  salutem.  Sciatis  quod  nos  de  fidelitate 
et  provida  circumspectione 

carissimi  consanguine!  nostri  Jacobi  Comitis  Douglas  ac 
dilectorum  et  fidelium  nostrorum     Willelmi  Welles  militis  et 

Johannis   Kyngescote   legum 
doctoris  necnon 
dilectorum  nobis  Johamiis  Douglas  et 

Johannis  Stanley. 
Plenius  confidentes  assignavimus  et  constituimus  ipsos  comitem 
Willelmum    Johannem    Johannem    et   Johannem    ambassiatores 
commissaries  sive  nuncios  nOstros  speciales  ad  conveniendum  cum 
carissimo  consanguineo  nostro  Johanne  comite  de  Rosse  ac 
dilecto  et  fidele  nostro  Donaldo  Ballagh 

seu  eorum  ambassiatoribus  commissai'iis  sive  nunciis  sufficientem 
potestatem  ab  eisdem  consanguines  nostro  Comite  de  Rosse  et 
Donaldo  in  ea  parte  habitentibus.  Necnon  ad  tractandum  et 
comicandum  cum  eisdem  de  et  super  cunctis  materiis  et  negotiis 
nos  et  ipsos  consanguineum  nostrum  comitem  de  Rosse  tangentibus 
sive  concernentibus  ac  de  et  in  materiis  et  negotiis  predictis 
precedendis  appunctuandis  concordandis  et  concludendis. 

Ceteraque  omnia  et  singula  in  premissis  et  eorum  dependentiia 
debita  et  requisita  concedenda  facienda  eb  expedienda,  Promitt- 
entes  bona  fide  et  verbo  regio  in  hiis  scriptis  quod  omnia  et 
singula  que  in  premissis  vel  circa  ea  per  ambassiatores  commissarios 


ii26  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

sive  nuncios  predictos  appunctuata  concordata  et  conclusa  fuerint 

rata  grata  firma  habevimus  pro  perpetuo.     In  cujus  &c. 

T.  R.     Apud  Westminstrem  xxij  die  Junii.     Per  ipsam  regem."  ^ 

For  consideration  of  the  proposals  about  to  be 
submitted  to  the  English  envoys,  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  with  his  council,  a  body  that  existed  in 
connection  with  the  family  from  the  earliest  times, 
met  and  deliberated  in  the  Castle  of  Ardthornish, 
which,  in  the  time  of  John,  Earl  of  E,oss,  was  the 
meeting  place  on  important  and  State  occasions. 
The  Douglasses  and  the  other  Commissioners  of 
Edward  seem  to  have  come  all  the  way  to 
Ardthornish  to  lay  their  proposals  before  John 
and  his  privy  council.  What  the  conclusion 
arrived  at,  after  mature  and  solemn  deliberation, 
was,  we  are  not  informed.  In  any  case,  it  was 
necessary  that  the  tentative  compact  must  be 
considered  and  ratified  in  the  great  English 
capital     itself       To    represent     the    interests     of 

^  Ambassadors  are  appointed  to  Treat  with  the  Earl  op  Ross. 

The  King  to  all  to  whom,  kc,  salvation.  Know  ye  that  we,  trusting 
very  fully  in  the  faithfulness  and  prudence  of  our  dearest  cousin  James  Earl 
of  Douglas  and  of  our  dear  and  faithful  William  Welles,  Knight,  and  John 
Kyngescote,  Doctor  of  Laws,  also  of  our  dear  John  Douglas  and  John  Stanley, 
have  nominated  and  appointed  these  same,  the  Earl,  William,  John,  John  and 
John  our  special  ambassadors,  commissioners  or  messengers,  for  meeting  vrith 
our  dearest  cousin  John  Earl  of  Ross  and  our  dear  and  faithful  Donald  Balloch 
or  their  ambassadors,  commissioners,  or  messengers  having  sufficient  power 
from  our  same  cousins  the  Earl  of  Ross  and  Donald  Balloch — on  that  part. 
Also  for  treating  and  communicating  with  these  same  concerning  and  with 
regard  to  all  matte-s  and  affairs  touching  and  concerning  ourselves  and  our 
cousin  Earl  of  Ross  and  with  regard  to  what  is  contained  in  the  matters 
and  affairs  aforesaid  that  have  to  be  proceeded  with,  determined,  agreed  upon 
and  concluded.  And  other  matters  all  and  each  which  ought  to  and  must 
needs  be  granted,  carried  out  and  arranged  as  in  the  premisses  and  their 
conclusions.  Promising  in  good  faith  and  by  our  royal  word  in  these 
documents  that  all  and  each  of  the  items  in  or  bearing  upon  the  premisses 
that  shall  have  been  appointed  agreed  upon  and  concluded  by  the  foresaid 
ambassadors,  commissioners  or  messengers  we  shall  hold  settled  agreeable  to 
us  and  fixed  for  ever.  In  testimony  of  which,  &c. 
T.  R.    At  Westminster  22nd  day  of  June.  By  the  King  himself. 

JOHN   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  227 

the  Macdonald  Family  at  Westminster,  two 
Commissioners  were  appointed.  Ranald  Bane 
of  the  Isles,  son  of  John  Mor  Tainistear,  and 
founder  of  the  family  of  Largie,  and  Duncan, 
Archdean  of  the  Isles,  were  appointed  to  meet 
the  English  Commissioners  ;  and  it  was  no  ordinary 
sign  of  confidence  that  they  were  entrusted  with 
such  important  and  delicate  negotiations.  The 
English  Commissioners  appointed  to  meet  the 
Commissioners  of  the  Isles  at  Westminster  were 
Lawrence,  Bishop  of  Durham,  the  Earl  of  Worcester, 
the  Prior  of  St  John's,  Lord  Wenlock,  and  Robert 
Stillington,  Keeper  of  the  King's  Seal.  The  treaty 
that  was  concluded  in  the  name  of  the  English 
King  and  the  Earl  of  Ross,  with  the  Earl  of 
Douglas  as  the  moving  spirit  of  the  plot,  was 
bold  and  sweeping  in  its  provisions.  It  was 
undoubtedly  treasonable  to  the  Scottish  State, 
but  the  whole  history  of  the  family  of  the  Isles, 
and  in  a  measure,  of  that  of  Douglas,  was  a 
continued  protest  against  the  supremacy  of  the 
Crown.  From  the  terms  of  the  treaty,  it  would 
appear  that  the  object  in  view  was  nothing  less 
than  the  complete  conquest  of  Scotland  by  the 
Earls  of  Ross  and  Douglas,  assisted  by  the  English 
King.  The  Earl  of  Koss,  Donald  Balloch,  and 
John,  his  son  and  heir,  agreed  to  become  vassals 
of  England,  and  with  their  followers  to  assist 
Edward  IV.  in  his  wars  in  Ireland  and  elsewhere. 
For  these  services,  and  as  the  reward  of  their 
vassalage,  the  Earl  of  Ross  was  to  be  paid  a 
salary  of  £200  sterling  annually  in  time  of  war, 
and  in  time  of  peace,  100  merks  ;  Donald  Balloch 
and  his  son  John  were  to  be  paid  salaries  respec- 
tively of  £40  and  £20  in  time  of  war,  and  in  time 

228  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  peace  half  these  sums.  In  the  event  of  the 
conquest  of  Scotland  by  the  Earls  of  Ross  and 
Douglas,  the  portion  of  the  kingdom  north  of  the 
Forth  was  to  be  divided  equally  between  the  Earls 
and  Donald  Balloch.  Douglas  was  to  be  restored 
to  his  estates  in  the  south.  On  the  division  of  the 
north  being  completed,  the  salaries  payable  to  the 
Macdonalds  were  to  cease. ^  In  case  of  a  truce  with 
the  Scottish  monarch,  the  Earl  of  Ross,  Donald 
Balloch,  and  John  his  son,  were  to  be  included  in 
it.^  This  extraordinary  treaty  is  so  important  in 
its  relationship  to  the  Family  of  the  Isles  that  we 
give  it  here  in  full : — 

3  "  FoEDus  INTER  Edwardum  reqem  Angliae  et  Johannbm 


jugando   scotiam,  et  eam   partiendo   inter  dictum 

comitem  et  comitbm  douglas  ;   cum  confirmationb 

Kegis  Edwardi. 
Rex  omnibus  ad  quos  tkc.  salutem.  Notum  facimus  quod 
vidimus  et  intelleximus  quedam  appunctuamenta  concordata 
conclusa  et  fiualiter  determinata  inter  commissarios  nostros  ac 
ambassiatores  commissarios  et  nuncios  carissimorum  consanguine- 
orum  nostrorum. 

Johannes  de  Isle  comitis  Rossie  et  domini  Insularum. 

Donaldi  Balagh  et 

Johannes  de  Isle  filii  et  heredis  ejusdam  Donaldi 
sub  eo  qui  sequitur  tenore  verborum.'^ 

1  Rymer'a  Foedera,  vol.  XL,  483-87.     Rotuli  Scotite,  vol.  II.,  407. 

*  Hector  Boece's  History  of  Scotland,  App.  393, 

^  Rotuli  Scotise  in  Turri  Londinensi,  vol.  II.,  pp.  405-7. 

^  League  between  Edward  King  of  England  and  John  Earl  op 

Koss  and  Lord  of  the  Isles  concerning  the  Conquest  of 

Scotland  and  the  Division  thereof  between  the  said  Earl 

OF  Ross  and  the  Earl  of  Douglas  ;  with  the  Confirmation 

OF  Kino  Edward. 

The  King  to  all  to  whom,  &c.,  salvation.     We  make  it  known  that  we  have 

Been  and  understood  that  certain  matters  have  been  agreed  upon,  concluded 

and   finally  determined  between   our  commissioners   and  the  ambassadors, 

commissioners  and  messengers  of  our  dearest  cousins  John  of  Isla  Earl  of  lloss 

and  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  Donald  Balloch  and  John  of  Isla  son  and  heir  of  the 

eame  Donald  who  follows  after  him  in  the  order  of  the  names. 

JOHN   DE   ILE,    EARL   OF   ROSS.  229 


Laurence  bishop  of  Duresme 

John  erle  of  Worcestre 

Robert  Botill'  priour  of  Seint  Johns  of  Jerusalem  in 

John  lord  Wenlok  and 

Maister  Robert   Stillyngton  keper  of   the   kynges 
prive  seal 
deputees  and  comissaries  to  the  most  high  and   mighty  prynce 
Kynge  Edward  the  Fourth  kyuge  of  Englonde  and  of  Fraunce 
and  lorde  of  Irlande 

Reynold  of  the  Isles  and 

Duncan  archediaken  of  the  Isles 
ambassiatours  comissaries  or  messagers  of  the  full  honorable  lorde 
John  de  Isle  erle  of  Rosse  and  lorde  of  the  Oute  Isles  to  all  thos 
that  this  presente  \Yrityng  endented  shall  see  or  here  gretyng. 
Be  it  knowen  that  we  the  seid  deputees  commissaries  and  ambas- 
satours  by  vertu  of  power  committed  unto  us  whereof  the  tenures 
ben  expressed  and  wreten  under  after  longe  and  diverse  tretes  and 
communications  hadd  betwix  us  upon  the  maters  that  folwen  by 
vertu  of  the  seid  power  have  appoynted  accorded  concluded  and 
finally  determined  in  maner  and  fourme  as  folweth  FURST  it  is 
appointed  accorded  concluded  and  finally  determined  betwyx  us 
that  the  seid  John  de  Isle  erle  of  Rosse  Donald  Balagh  and  John 
of  Isles  son  and  heire  apparant  to  the  seid  Donald  with  all  there 
subgettez  men  people  and  inhabitantes  of  the  seid  erldom  of  Rosse 
and  Isles  aboveseid  shall  at  feste  of  Whittesontide  next  commyng 
become  and  be  legemen  and  subjettes  unto  the  seid  most  high 
and  Christen  prince  Kynge  Edward  the  Fourthe  his  heires  and 
Buccessours  kynges  of  Englond  of  the  high  and  mighty  prince 
Leonell  sonne  to  Kynge  Edward  the  Thridde  lynially  descendyng 
and  be  sworne  and  do  homage  unto  hym  or  to  such  as  he  shall 
comitte  power  unto  you  at  the  seid  fest  of  Whittesontide  or  after 
And  in  semble  wyse  the  heires  of  the  seid  John  th'  erle  Donald  and 
John  shall  be  and  remaigne  for  ever  subjettis  and  liegemen  unto 
the  seid  Kynge  Edward,  his  heires  and  successours  kynges  of 
Englonde  as  it  is  aboveseid  yevinge  unto  his  highnesse  and  his 
seid  heires  and  successours  as  well  the  seid  John  th'  erle  Donald 
and  John  as  theire  heires  and  successours  and  eche  of  them  verrey 
and  trewe  obeysaunce  in  obeinge  his  and  there  commaundementea 

230  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  do  all  thyng  that  a  trewe  and  feithfull  subjette  oweth  to  doo 
and  bere  to  his  soveryane  and  lige  lord  and  as  hit  accordeth  to  his 
ligeauuce  ITEM  the  seid  John  th'  erle  Donald  and  John  and  eche 
of  them  shall  be  alwaye  redy  after  the  seid  feste  of  Whittesontide 
vipon  convenable  and  resounable  warnyng  and  commaundement 
yeven  unto  them  by  the  seid  most  myghty  prynce  Edward  kynge 
of  Englonde  his  heires  and  successours  kynges  of  Englonde  of  the 
seid  Leonell  in  fourme  aboveseid  descendyng  or  be  eny  other  on 
his  or  their  behalf es  haA'yng  power  therto  to  do  diligente  and 
efFectuall  service  with  and  to  all  them  uttermost  myght  and  power 
in  suche  werres  as  the  seid  most  high  and  myghty  prynce  his 
heires  and  successours  kynges  of  Englond  as  is  above  seid  shall 
move  or  arreise  or  to  moved  or  arreised  in  Scotlande  or  ayenste 
the  Scottes  in  Irlande  or  ayenst  the  kynges  ennemyes  or  rebelles 
there  and  in  the  same  werres  remaigne  and  continue  with  all  ther 
aide  myght  and  power  in  such  wyse  as  they  or  eny  of  them  shall 
have  in  commaundement  by  the  seid  high  and  myghty  prince  his 
heires  and  successours  and  as  longe  as  it  shall  please  hym  or  them 
ITEM  the  seid  John  erle  of  Rosse  shall  from  the  seid  feste  of 
Whittesontyde  next  comyug  yerely  duryng  his  lyf  have  and  take 
for  fees  and  wages  in  tyme  of  peas  of  the  seid  most  high  and 
Christen  prince  C  mere  sterlyng  of  Englysh  money  and  in  tyme  of 
werre  as  longe  as  he  shall  entende  with  his  myght  and  power  in 
the  said  werres  in  maner  and  fourme  aboveseid  he  shall  have 
wages  of  CCli  sterlyng  of  Englysh  money  yerely  and  after  the  rate 
of  the  tyme  that  he  shall  be  occupied  in  the  seid  werres  ITEM 
the  seid  Donald  shall  from  the  seid  feste  of  Whittesontide  have 
and  take  duryng  his  lyf  yerly  in  tyme  of  peas  for  his  fees  and 
wages  XXli  sterlyng  of  Englysh  money  and  when  he  shall  be 
occupied  and  intende  to  the  werre  with  his  myght  and  power  and 
in  maner  and  fourme  aboveseide  he  shall  have  and  take  for  his 
wages  yerly  XLli  sterlynges  of  Englysh  money  or  for  the  rate  of 
the  tyme  of  werre  ITEM  the  seid  John  soun  and  heire  apparant 
of  the  said  Donald  shall  have  and  take  yerely  from  the  seid  fest 
for  his  fees  and  wages  in  the  tyme  of  peas  Xli  sterlynges  of 
Englysh  money  and  for  tyme  of  werre  and  his  intendyng  therto 
in  manere  and  fourme  aboveseid  he  shall  have  for  his  fees  and 
wages  yerely  XXli  sterlynges  of  Englysh  money  or  after  the  rate 
of  the  tyme  that  he  shall  be  occupied  in  the  werre  And  the  seid 
John  th'  erle  Donald  and  John  and  eche  of  them  shall  have  gode 
and  sufficaunt  paiment  of  the  seid  fees  and  wages  as  well  for  tyme 

JOHN  DE  ILE,  EARL  OF  ROSS.        231 

of  peas  as  of  werre  accordyug  to  thees  articules  aud  appoyntementes 
ITEM  it  is  appointed  concluded  accorded  and  finally  determined 
that  if  it  so  be  that  hereafter  tlie  seid  reaume  of  Scotlande  or 
the  more  part  therof  be  conquered  subdued  and  brough  to  the 
obeissaunce  of  the  seid  most  high  and  Christen  prince  and 
his  heirs  or  successours  of  the  seid  Leonell  in  fourme 
aboveseide  discendyng  be  th'  assistence  helpe  and  aide  of 
the  seid  John  erle  of  Rosse  and  Donald  and  of  James  erle 
of  Douglas  then  the  seid  fees  and  wages  for  the  tyme  of  peas 
cessyng  the  same  erles  and  Donald  shall  have  by  the  graunte  of 
the  same  most  Christen  prince  all  the  possessions  of  the  seid 
reaume  beyonde  Scottyshe  See  they  to  be  departed  egally  betwix 
them  eche  of  them  his  heires  and  successours  to  holde  his  parte 
of  the  seid  most  Cristen  prince  his  heires  and  successours  for 
evermore  in  right  of  his  croune  of  Englonde  by  homage  and 
feaute  to  be  done  therefore  ITEM  if  so  be  that  by  th'aide  and 
assistence  of  the  seid  James  erle  of  Douglas  the  seid  reaume  of 
Scoctlande  be  conquered  and  subdued  as  above'^then  he  shall  have 
enjoye  and  inherite  all  his  owne  possessions  landes  and  inheri- 
taunce  on  this  syde  the  seid  Scottyshe  See  that  is  to  saye  betwix 
the  seid  Scottyshe  See  and  Englonde  suche  he  hath  rejoiced  and 
be  possessed  of  before  this  there  to  holde  them  of  the  seid  most 
high  and  Cristen  his  heires  and  successours  as  is  aboveseid  for 
evermore  in  right  of  the  coroune  of  Englande  as  well  the  said  erl 
of  Douglas  as  his  heires  and  successours  by  homage  and  feaute  to 
be  done  therefore  ITEM  it  is  appointed  accordett  concluded  and 
finally  determined  that  if  it  so  be  the  seid  most  high  and  myghty 
prince  the  kynge  after  the  seid  fest  of  Whittesontide  and  afore 
the  conquest  of  the  reaume  of  Scottelande  take  any  trewes  or 
abstinaunce  of  werre  with  the  kynge  of  Scottes  then  the  seid  erle 
of  Rosse  Donald  and  John  and  all  their  men  tenantes  officers  and 
servantes  and  lordships  landes  tenementes  and  possessions  whereof 
the  same  erle  of  Ross  Donald  and  John  or  eny  of  them  be  nowe 
possessed  within  Scottland  and  the  seid  erldom  of  Rosse  and  also 
the  isle  of  Arran  shall  be  comprised  within  the  seid  trewes  or 
abstinaunce  of  werre  olesse  then  the  said  erle  of  Rosse  signifie 
unto  the  high  and  myghty  prince  the  kynge  before  Whittesontide 
next  comyng  that  he  woll  in  nowe  wyse  be  comprised  therein 
ITEM  it  is  appointed  accorded  conclused  and  finally  determyned 
that  the  seid  John  erle  of  Rosse  Donald  and  John  shall  accepte 
approve  ratifie  and  conferme  all  these  presente  articles  appoynte- 

232  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

mentes  accordes  conclusions  and  determinations  and  thereunto 
gave  thaire  aggrement  and  assent  and  in  writyng  under  there 
seeles  of  amies  sende  and  delyvere  it  to  the  seid  most  Cristen 
kynge  or  his  chaunceler  of  Englande  afore  the  furst  day  of  Juyll 
next  comynge  receyvynge  att  that  tyme  semblable  tres  of  ratifi- 
cation of  the  seid  appoyntementes  to  be  made  undre  the  grete 
seall  of  the  seid  most  high  and  myghty  prynce  All  these  thinges 
in  maner  and  fourme  aboveseid  we  the  seid  commissiaries  and 
ambassatours  have  appointed  accorded  concluded  and  finally 
determined  and  that  they  shall  be  trewly  observed  and  kepte  we 
permitte  by  vertue  of  our  sevei-all  powars  and  commissions  yeven 
and  made  unto  us  whereof  the  tenures  worde  by  worde  ben  such 
as  folwen. 

Edwardus  dei  gratia  Rex  Angliae  et  Franciae  et 
dominus  Hibernie  omnibus  ad  quos  presentes 
litere  pervenerint  salutem. 
Sciatis  quod  nos  de  fidelitatibus  et  providis  circumspectionibus 
Venerabilis  px-ioris  Laurentii  Episcopi  Dunolm'  ac 

Carissimi  consaunguinei  nostri  Johannis  comitis  Wygorn 
Necnon  dilectorum  et  fidelum   nostrorum   Roberti  Botill'  prioris 
Sancti  Johannis  Jerusalem  in  Anglia 

Johannis  Wenlok 
de  Wenlok  militis  et  Magistri  Roberti  Stillyngton  legum  doctoris 
custodis  privati  sigilli  nostri 

plenius  confidentes  assignavinms  et  constituimus  ipsos  episcopura 
comitera  priorem  Johannem  et  Robertam  ambassiatores  commis- 
sariis  sive  nunciis  sufficieutem  potestatem  sub  eo  consauguineo 
nostro  comite  Rossie  in  ea  parte  habitentibus  necnon  ad  tractandum 
et  coinmunicandum  cum  eisdem  de  et  super  cunctis  materiis  et 
negotiis  nos  et  dictum  consanguineum  nostrum  comitem  Rossie 
tangentibus  sive  concernentibus  ac  de  in  materiis  predictis  pre- 
cedendis  appunctuandis  concordandis  concludendis  determinandis 
et  finiendis  ac  appunctuamenta  concordata  conclusa  determinata 
et  finita  per  eosdem  vice  et  nomine  nostris  in  scriptis  redigenda 
seu  redigi  facienda  ac  etiam  sigillanda.  Ceteraque  omnia  et 
singula  in  premissis  et  eorum  dependentiis  debita  ut  requisita 
concidenda  et  facienda  et  expedienda.  Promittentes  bona  fide  et 
verbo  regio  quod  omnia  et  singula  que  in  premissis  vel  circa  ea 
per  ambassiatores  commissarios  sive  nuncios  nostros  predictos 
quatuor  vel  tres  eorum  appunctuata  concordata  conclusa  deter- 
minata et  finita  fuerint  rata  grata  firma  stabiliter  habebimus  pro 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  233 

perpetuo.      In    cujus    re   testimonium   has   literas   nostras   fieri 

fecimus  patentes. 

T.  Me  ipso  apud  Westminstrem  octavo  die 

Februarii  anno  regni  nostri  primo.  Bagot.^ 

Johannes  de  Yle  comes  Rossiae  dominus  Insularum  omnibus  ad 
quos  presentes  litere  pervenerint  salutem.  Sciatis  quod  nos  de 
fideHtate  et  provida  circumspectione  consanguineorum  nostrorum 

Konaldi  de  Insulis  et 

Duncani  Archedeaconi  Insularum 
Plenius  confidentes  assignavimus  et  constituimus  ipsos  Ranaldum 
et  Duncanum  ambassiatores  commissarios  sive  nuncios  nostros 
speciales  ad  conveniendum  cum  escellentissimo  principe  Edwardo 
dei  gratia  rege  Angliae  et  Franciae  et  domino  Hibernie  seu  ejus 
ambassiatoribus  commissariis  sive  nunciis  sufficientem  potestatem 
sub  eodem  excellentissimo  principe  Edwardo  dei  gratia  rege 
Angliae  et  Franciae  et  domino  Hibernie  in  ea  parte  habitentibus. 
Necnon  ad  tractandum  et  communicandum  cum  eisdem  de  et 
super  cunctis  materiis  et  negotiis  nos  et  dictum  excellentissimum 
principem  tangentibus  sive  concernentibus  ac  de  et  in  materiis 

^  Edward  bt  the  Grace  of  God  King  of  England  and  France 
AND  Lord  of  Ireland  to  all  to  whom  these  present  Letters 
shall  have  come — salvation. 
Know  ye  that  we  being  fully  confident  of  the  faithfulness  and  prudence 
of  the  venerable  prior  Laurence  Bishop  of  Durham,  and  our  dearest  cousin  John 
Earl  of  Worcester,  also  of  our  dear  and  faithful  Robert  Botill,  prior  of  St  John 
Jerusalem  in  England,  John  Wenlok  of  Wenlok,  Knight,  and  Master  Robert 
Stillyngton,  doctor,  Keeper  of  our  privy  seal — have  nominated  and  appointed 
these,  the  Bishop,  Earl,  prior  John  and  Robert  ambassadors,  there  being  also 
commissioners  or  messengers  possessing  full  power  under  our  cousin  Earl  of 
Ross  on  that  part,  for  treating  and  communicating  with  these  same  con- 
cerning and  regarding  all  matters  and  affairs  touching  and  relating  to  us  and 
our  said  cousin  the  Earl  of  Ross  and  regarding  the  matters  aforesaid  to  be 
proceeded  with,  appointed,  agreed  upon,  concluded,  determined,  and  ended, 
and  that  the  points  agreed  upon,  concluded,  determined,  and  ended  by  these 
same,  in  turn  and  by  name  must  be  entered  among  our  writs  or  must  be 
drawn  out  and  sealed,  to  be  so  entered.  And  the  other  mattfers,  all  and  each 
in  the  premisses  and  their  conclusions  must  as  required  be  finished,  carried 
out,  and  arranged.  Promising  in  good  faith  and  by  our  royal  word  that  all 
and  each  of  the  matters  in  the  premisses  or  bearing  upon  these  as  shall  have 
been  agreed  upon,  concluded,  determined,  and  ended,  whether  by  our 
ambassadors,  commissioners,  or  messengers  aforesaid,  or  by  four  or  three  of 
them,  we  shall  hold  as  settled  agreeable  to  us  and  firmly  fixed  for  ever. 
In  testimony  of  which  we  have  caused  these  our  letters  patent  to  be  written. 
Testified  by  myself  at  Westminster,  the  eighth  day  of  February,  in  the 
first  year  of  our  reign.  Bagot, 

234  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

predictis  precedendis  et  appunctuandis  concordandis  concludendis 
determinandis  et  finiendis  ac  appunctuata  concordata  conclusa 
determinata  et  finita  per  eosdem  vice  et  nomine  nostris  in  scriptis 
redigendis  sen  redigi  facere  ac  etiam  sigillaudis.  Ceteraque  omnia 
et  singula  in  premissis  et  eorum  dependentiis  debita  et  requisita 
considenda  facienda  et  expedienda.  Promittentes  bona  fide  et 
christianitate  qua  astricti  deo  in  hiis  scriptis  quod  omnia  et  singula 
que  in  premissis  vel  circa  ea  per  ambassiatores  commissarios  sive 
nuncios  predictos  vel  unam  eorum  appunctuata  concordata  con- 
clusa determinata  et  finita  fuerint  rata  grata  firma  et  stabilia 
habebimus  pro  perpetuo.  In  cujus  re  testimonium  has  literas 
nostras  fieri  fecimus  patentes. 

Ex  castello  nostro  Ardtbornis  decimo  nono 
die  niensis  Octobris  anno  Domini  millesimo 
quadringentesimo  sexagesimo  primo.^ 
In  whittenesse  whereof  to  that  on'  partie   of   these  indentures 
delyvered    and    remaignyng    towardes    the    deputees   and    com- 
missaries of  the  said  high  and  myghty  prynce  Kynge  Edward  we 

^  John  of  Isla  Earl  of  Eoss  Lord  of  the  Isles,  to  all  to  whom  the  present 
letters  may  come — salvation.  Know  ye  that  we,  fully  trusting  in  the  faith- 
fulness and  prudence  of  our  cousins, 

Eonald  of  the  Isles  and 

Duncan  Archdeacon  of  the  Isles, 
have  nominated  and  appointed  these  same  Ranald  and  Duncan  our  special 
ambassadors,  commissioners  or  messengers,  to  meet  with  the  most  excellent 
prince  Edward  by  the  grace  of  God  King  of  England  and  France  and  Lord  of 
Ireland,  or  his  ambassadors,  commissioners  or  messengers,  having  full  power 
under  the  same  most  excellent  prince  Edward  by  the  grace  of  God  King  of 
England  and  France  and  Lord  of  Ireland — on  that  part.  Also  for  treating 
and  communicating  with  these  same  concerning  and  with  reference  to  all 
matters  and  affairs  touching  or  relating  to  us  and  the  said  most  excellent 
prince  and  concerning  the  matters  aforesaid  to  be  proceeded  with  and 
appointed,  agreed  upon,  concluded,  determined  and  ended — the  matters 
appointed,  agreed  to,  concluded,  determined  and  ended  by  these  same  in  turn 
and  by  name  having  to  be  entered  among  our  writs  or  drawn  out  and  sealed 
that  they  may  be  thus  entered.  And  the  rest  all  and  each  ought  as  required 
in  the  premisses  and  their  conclusions  to  be  finished,  carried  through  and 
arranged.  Promising  in  good  faith  and  by  the  Christianity  by  which  we  are 
bound  to  God  in  these  documents  that  all  and  each  of  the  matters  in  the 
premisses  or  bearing  upon  them,  appointed,  agreed  to,  concluded,  determined, 
and  ended  by  the  foresaid  ambassadors,  commissioners  or  messengers  aforesaid 
or  by  one  of  them,  we  shall  hold  settled,  agreeable  to  us,  fixed  and  fast  for 
ever.  In  testimony  of  which  we  have  caused  these  letters  patent  to  be 

At  our  Castle    of    Ardthornish,   the  nineteenth   day  of  the   mouth  of 
October,  the  year  of  our  Lord  one  thousand  four  hundred  and  sixty  one, 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  235 

the  seid  Raynald  and  Duncan  ambassitours  and  commissaries  of 
the  seid  erle  Rossie  have  putte  our  seales  and  signe  manuelles. 

Writen  att  London'  the  xiij  dey  of  Februer 

the  yere  of  the  birth  of  our  Lorde 

MCCCCLXII  and  the  furst  year  of 

the  reigne  of  the  high  and  myghty 

prince  Kynge  Eward  the  Fourth  above 

Nos  vero  eadem  appunctuamenta  concordata  conclusa  et  finaHter 
determinata  ac  omnia  et  singula  in  eisdem  contenta  et  specificata 
rata  et  grata  habentes  eadem  acceptamus  approbamus  ratificamus 
et  confirmamus  eisdemque  nostrum  assensum  primiter  et  con- 
censum  damns  et  adhibemus  et  in  eisdem  vigore  robore  et  virtute 
remanere  et  haberi  volumus  ac  si  per  nos  appunctuata  concordata 
conckisa  ct  tinahter  de  terminata  fuissent  necnon  ea  onuiia  et 
singula  ad  omnem  juris  efFectum  qui  exinde  poterit  tenore  pre- 
sentium  innovamus.  Promittentes  bona  fide  et  verbo  regio  nos 
dicta  appunctuamenta  concordata  et  conclusa  et  finaliter  deter- 
minata omnia  et  singula  in  eisdem  contenta  quatiiius  nos 
concernant  pro  parte  nostra  impleturos  et  observaturos  imper- 
petuum.  In  cujns  &c. 
T.  R.     Apud  Westminstrem  xvij  die  martii. 

Per  breve  de  prevato  sigillo  et 
de  data  predicta  auctoritate  &c."  ^ 

Such  was  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish,  a  diplomatic 
instrument  most  darinf^  in  its  conception  and  big 
with  the  fate  of  the  Island  Family.  Considering  the 
commanding  position  John   already  occupied,  it   is 

^  But  we,  holding  these  same  points  agreed  to,  concluded  aud  finally  deter- 
mined, as  well  as  all  and  each  of  the  matters  contained  and  specified  in  them, 
accept,  approve,  ratify  and  confirm  them,  and  we  give  and  adhibit  our  assent 
and  consent  in  chief,  and  wish  them  to  remain  and  be  held  in  these  same  in 
their  strength,  force,  and  validity,  as  if  they  had  been  appointed,  agreed  upon, 
concluded,  and  finally  determined  by  ourselves  ;  also,  we  renew  all  and  each 
of  these  things  with  the  full  effect  of  law  which  shall  henceforth  exist  in  the 
tenor  of  these  letters.     Promising  in  good  faith  and  by  our  royal  word  that 
for  our  part  we  shull  fulfil  and  observe  the  said  points  agreed  upon  and  con- 
cluded and  finally  determined  in  all  and  each  of  their  contents  so  far  as  they 
may  concern  us,  for  ever.     In  testimony  of  which,  &c. 
Royal  certification — At  Westminster,  17th  day  of  March. 
In  brief  from  the  private  seal  and 
Ou  the  date  aforesaid  by  authority,  &c. 

236  THE    CLAN    DONALD, 

strange  he  should  have  allowed  himself  to  be 
entangled  in  a  scheme  so  wild  and  perilous.  He 
was  already  by  far  the  most  powerful  noble  in 
Scotland,  with  a  vast  territory  and  almost  regal 
sway.  But  he  seems  to  have  been  ambitious  of 
acquiring  still  greater  power  and  prestige.  The  bribe 
held  out  to  him  proved  a  strong  temptation,  and 
undoubtedly  influenced  his  conduct  in  the  step  he 
took ;  yet  the  scheme  was  so  wild  that  we  are 
amazed  at  the  eagerness  with  which  he  entered 
into  it,  and  at  his  simplicity  in  allowing  himself  to 
be  blindly  led  into  so  hollow  an  alliance.  It  is 
plain  that  the  scheme  did  not  emanate  from  the 
brain  of  the  Earl  of  Ross.  On  this,  as  on  critical 
occasions  before,  John  was  under  the  controlling 
influence  of  wills  stronger  and  more  persistent  than 
his  own.  It  was  the  scheme  of  a  bold  and  desperate 
man  who  was  playing  a  hazardous  game  for  tre- 
mendous odds.  For  the  provisions  of  the  Treaty  of 
Ardthornish  we  are  indebted  mainly  to  the  banished 
and  forfeited  Earl  of  Douglas.  But  there  was 
another  party  to  the  contract  who  must  not  be 
overlooked.  Donald  Balloch  was  thoroughly  imbued 
with  the  Celtic  spirit,  keen,  restless,  and  eager,  the 
determined  foe  from  his  early  years  of  the  Scottish 
State,  and  still  in  his  declining  years  burning  for 
dangerous  and  exciting  adventures.  From  these 
and  other  circumstances  we  may  well  believe  that 
his  voice  would  have  been  loud  for  the  league 
embodied  in  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish. 

This  remarkable  compact  between  the  Lord  of 
the  Isles  and  the  English  King,  with  the  Earl  of 
Douglas  as  the  moving  spirit  of  the  plot,  implied 
the  adoption  of  military  measures  to  carry  its 
provisions   into    effect.     The   events   that   followed 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL   OF    ROSS.  237 

almost  immediately  after  the  ratification  of  the 
Treaty  seem  to  suggest  an  understanding  between 
the  parties  that  no  time  was  to  be  lost  in  taking  the 
contemplated  action.  On  the  side  of  the  Earl  of 
Ross  proceedings  were  taken  with  almost  precipitate 
haste.  The  two  foremost  Clan  Donald  warriors  of 
the  day  were  placed  at  the  head  of  the  vassals  of 
Ross  and  the  Isles.  First  in  command  was  Angus 
Og,  son  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  who  now  for  the 
first  time  makes  his  appearance  upon  the  arena  of 
war,  but  who  had  already,  though  scarcely  more 
than  a  boy,  begun  to  show  indications  of  the  daunt- 
less courage,  the  unconquerable  spirit  which  future 
years  were  more  vividly  to  disclose.  Second  in 
command  was  Donald  Balloch,  the  hero  of  Inver- 
lochy,  a  fight  the  memory  of  which  was  beginning 
to  grow  dim  in  the  minds  of  the  generation  that 
witnessed  it. 

The  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  and  the  Glens  of  Antrim 
had  only  once  unsheathed  his  sword  since  he  over- 
threw the  Earl  of  Mar  in  Lochaber,  but  he  was  still, 
though  past  his  prime,  well  nigh  as  formidable  an 
antagonist  as  of  old,  always  to  be  found  where  the 
hurricane  of  battle  was  brewing,  now,  as  of  yore,  the 
harbinger  of  strife,  the  stormy  petrel  of  Clan  Donald 
warfare.  Angus  Og,  destined  to  play  the  leading 
part  in  the  decline  and  fall  of  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles,  was  a  natural  son  of  the  Earl  of  Boss.  The 
historian  of  Sleat,  whether  inadvertently  or  of  set 
purpose,  would  make  it  appear  otherwise,  and  says 
that  Angus  Og  was  the  issue  of  a  marriage  with  a 
daughter  of  the  Earl  of  Angus. ^  There  is  no 
evidence  that  such  a  marriage  ever  took  place,  and 
John  had  no  male  issue  by  his  wife,  Elizabeth 
Livingston.        The  question  is  placed   beyond  dis- 

^  Hugh  Macdouald  in  Collectanea  de  Eebus  Albanicis,  p.  315. 

238  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

pute  by  a  charter  which  was  afterwards  given  to 
John  in  confirmation  of  his  possessions,  and  in  which 
it  was  provided  that,  faiUng  legitimate  heirs  male, 
the  title  and  estates  were  to  descend  to  his  natural 
son  Angus/  The  mother  of  Angus  is  said  to  have 
been  a  daughter  of  Macphee  of  Colonsay,  so  that  the 
heir  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  of  gentle  if  not 
legal  origin. 

The  army  of  the  Isles,  under  the  leadership  of 
Angus  Og  and  Donald  Balloch,  marched  to  Inver- 
ness, once  more  the  theatre  of  warlike  operations. 
Taking  possession  of  the  town  and  castle,  the  latter 
one  of  the  royal  strongholds  in  the  north,  they  at 
once,  in  the  name  of  the  Earl  of  Boss,  assumed 
royal  powers  over  the  northern  counties,  commanded 
the  inhabitants  and  all  the  Government  officers  to 
obey  Angus  Og  under  pain  of  death,  and  to  pay  to 
him,  as  his  father's  lieutenant,  the  taxes  that  were 
exigible  by  the  Crown.  In  this  way  did  the  Earl 
of  Ross  attempt  to  carry  into  immediate  and  forcible 
execution  the  provisions  of  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish. 
It  is  hardly  credible  that  John  would  have  taken  a 
step  so  daring  and  extreme  did  he  not  expect  that 
the  English  portion  of  the  Treaty  would  have  been 
carried  out  at  the  same  time  by  the  dispatch  of  a 
strong  body  of  auxiliaries  to  form  a  junction  with 
the  Highland  army.  There  is  evidence  that  an 
English  invasion  of  Scotland  was  contemplated  at 
the  time,  and  that  apprehensions  of  its  imminence 
prevailed  in  the  Eastern  Counties.  Especially  in 
the  town  of  Aberdeen  the  Provost  and  inhabitants 
were  warned  to  keep  their  town,  sure  intelligence 
having  been  received  that  an  English  fleet  was  on 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.  VII.,  No.  335.      Acts  of  Pari.,  vol.  II.,  p.  189-90.     Had- 
diugtuu  Collectious,  vol.  I.,  p.  336. 

JOHN    DE    ILE,    EARL    OF    ROSS.  239 

the  way  to  destroy  not  only  Aberdeen  but  other 
towns  upon  the  coast. ^  Had  Edward  IV.  been  able 
to  support  the  action  of  the  Earl  of  Ross  in  the 
North  by  throwing  an  army  across  the  border  in  aid 
of  the  Earl  of  Douglas,  it  is  quite  possible  that  the 
State  might  have  fallen,  and  Scotland  have  lost  the 
independence  for  which  she  had  made  such  heroic 
struggles.  Fortunately  for  the  Kingdom  of  Scot- 
land, this  was  not  to  be.  The  Wars  of  the  Roses 
were  still  raging  in  the  sister  country,  and  the 
resistance  of  the  heroic  Margaret  of  Anjou  to  the 
pretensions  of  the  House  of  York  absorbed  the 
energies  of  the  reigning  power.  Edward  IV.  was 
unable  to  dispatch  the  expeditionary  force  to  the 
assistance  of  the  Highland  insurgents,  the  scheme 
for  the  division  of  Scotland,  after  the  manner  pre- 
scribed in  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish,  came  to  naught, 
and  the  rebellion  finally  collapsed. 

What  actually  followed  the  campaign  of  Angus 
Og  and  Donald  Balloch,  whether  they  were  caUed 
to  account  and  subdued  by  force  of  arms,  or  whether 
matters  were  allowed  to  adjust  themselves  with- 
out any  active  measures  being  undertaken  by  the 
State,  are  questions  upon  which  the  annals  of 
the  age  do  not  throw  much  light.  It  seems  clear, 
however,  that,  whether  through  want  of  will  or 
power,  no  decisive  steps  were  taken  to  award  to 
the  Earl  of  Ross  any  punishment  commensurate  with 
his  disloyalty.  It  must  be  remembered,  however, 
that  the  full  measure  of  the  treason  was  very  far 
from  being  known.  The  invasion  of  the  northern 
counties,  with  the  seizure  of  Inverness,  and  whatever 
hostilities  accompanied  the   proclamation  of  sover- 

1  Buchanan,  Lib.  XII.,  c.  19.      Note  (3). 

240  THE   CLAN   DONALi). 

eignty,  must  have  come  to  the  knowledge  of  the 
Government ;  but  the  serious  aspect  of  the  whole 
affair,  the  negotiations  embodied  in  the  Treaty  of 
Ardthornish,  still  remained  a  secret  buried  out  of 
sight  in  the  archives  of  the  English  Crown  at 
Westminster.  It  needed  but  a  favourable  oppor- 
tunity for  that  explosive  document  to  bring  dismay 
and  consternation  to  the  minds  of  those  involved. 

DECLINE   OP   THE   HOUSE   OF   ISLA.  24 1 



Events  following  Ardthornish  Treaty. — Its  Discovery. — Cause  of 
Discovery.  —  Indictment.  —  Summons.  —  Forfeiture. — Expedi- 
tions against  John. — He  Submits. — Resignation. — Partial 
Re-instatement  and  New  Honour. — Charter  of  1476. — 
Sentiment  in  Isles. — Angus  Og. — His  Attitude. — Rebellion  in 
Kuapdale.  —  Invasion  of  Ross. — Feud  with  Mackenzie. — 
Lagabraad. — Bloody  Bay. — Abduction  of  Donald  Dubh. — 
Raid  of  Athole. — The  Probable  Facts. — Angus'  Reconciliation 
to  his  Father. — Assassination  of  Angus  Og. — Alexander  of 
Lochalsh. — Invasion  of  Ross. — Battle  of  Park. — John's  Final 
Forfeiture  and  Death. 

The  Earl  of  Ross  does  not  appear  to  have  suffered 
either  in  dignity  or  estate  after  the  rebellion  of 
1463.  For  at  least  twelve  years  after  that  maddest 
of  engagements,  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish,  he 
pursued  the  even  tenor  of  his  way  with  little  or  no 
molestation  from  the  Scottish  State.  That  John 
maintained  his  position  intact  is  evidenced  by  Crown 
confirmations  of  grants  of  land  bestowed  upon  his 
brothers  Celestine  and  Hugh.  These  twelve  years, 
from  1463  to  1475,  are  years  of  well-nigh  unbroken 
darkness  so  far  as  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  and  the 
Earldom  of  Ross  are  concerned.  The  rebellion  of 
1463,  short-lived  though  it  was,  and  comparatively 
little  as  we  know  of  its  details,  left  abundant  seeds 
of  future  trouble.  There  is  undoubted  reason  to 
believe  that  John  was  summoned  to  appear  before 
the  Parliament  of  1463  to  answer  for  his  conduct 
under  pain  of  forfeiture,  but  despite  the  threatened 

242  THE   CLAJSr   DONALt). 

penalties,  the  Earl  of  Ross,  whose  love  for  these 
conventions  seems  never  to  have  been  strong,  did 
not  put  in  an  appearance/  Whether  it  was  that 
his  command  of  the  Scots  tongue  was  limited,  and 
he  did  not  care  to  mix  with  the  Southern  nobles  for 
that  reason,  or  whether  he  ignored  the  jurisdiction 
of  that  august  body,  we  know  not,  but  certain  it  is 
that  on  almost  all  occasions  he  was  represented  at 
the  Scottish  Parliament  by  procurators,  his  proxy  in 
1467  having  been  his  armour-bearer,  William,  Thane 
of  Cawdor.  Owing  to  John's  non-compearance  at 
the  Parliament  of  1463,  his  case  was  postponed,  and 
the  Parliament  adjourned  to  meet  in  the  city  of 
Aberdeen  on  the  Feast  of  St  John  the  Baptist  the 
same  year.^  Of  neither  of  these  Parliaments  have 
any  records  survived,  but  subsequent  proceedings 
clearly  show  that  John  still  elected  to  remain  in 
his  Castle  of  Dingwall  rather  than  respond  to  the 
summons  of  the  High  Court  of  the  realm.  That 
same  year  there  is  evidence  that  efforts  were  not 
awanting  to  bring  the  rebel  to  task,  though  these 
do  not  appear  to  have  been  conducted  with  much 
earnestness  or  resolution.  Several  Poyal  Commis- 
sioners, including  the  Earl  of  Argyle  and  Lords 
Montgomery  and  Kennedy,  and  Treasurer  Guthrie, 
came  North  to  lay  the  royal  commands  before  the 
Earl  of  Ross,  for  it  is  on  record  that  expenses 
amounting  to  £12  10s  4d  were  allowed  them  for  two 
days'  sojourn  at  Perth  on  their  way  to  Dingwall 
Castle.^  Definite  knowledge  of  the  result  of  this 
mission  we  do  not  possess.  The  probability  is  that 
John  was  neither  punished  nor  forgiven,  but  was 
left,  like  Mahomet's  cofiin,  in  a  condition  of  suspense 
as  to  his  standing  with  the  Crown,  and  this  leaving 

^  Asloan  MS.,  23-60.  ^  Ibid.  °  Exchequer  Rolls  ad  tempus. 


of  the  matter  undecided  explains  why,  in  after  years, 
the  Government  was  enabled  to  ^o  back  upon  the 
delinquencies  of  1463.  Although  the  Treaty  of 
Ardthornish  was  still  a  secret,  the  Government 
seems  to  have  had  sufficient  evidence  that  John  had 
been  guilty  of  treason  against  the  Crown  by  the 
assumption  of  royal  prerogatives  in  the  North,  and 
the  appropriation  of  taxes  and  revenues  pertaining 
to  the  Crown  alone.  He  and  his  brother  Celestine 
were  justly  accused  of  having  retained  the  Crown 
lands  in  1462-3,  as  well  as  £542  5s  7d  of  the  farms 
of  Petty,  Leffare,  Bonnach,  Ardmannach,  the  vacant 
See  of  Moray,  &c,,  wrongfully  and  without  the 
King's  warrant.^  It  was  probably  no  easy  task  for 
the  Earl  of  Ross  to  prevent  disturbances  breaking 
out  between  the  restless  Islesmen  by  whom  he  was 
surrounded  and  the  occupants  of  the  lands  adjacent 
to  his  territories.  We  find,  in  1465,  reckoning 
made  of  the  wasting  and  burning  of  the  lands  of 
Kingeleye,  Bordeland,  Drumdelcho,  Buchrubyn, 
Drumboye,  Turdarroch,  and  Monachty,  to  the  extent 
of  £31,^  for  all  of  which  the  Earl  of  Ross  and 
his  followers  were  held  responsible.  Quarrels  were 
likewise  breaking  out  occasionally  betwixt  the  Earl 
of  Boss  and  his  neighbours  in  the  East  of  Scotland. 
Thus,  in  1473,  and  in  the  month  of  August,  there  is 
strife  between  himself  and  Alexander  of  Setouii 
regarding  the  lands  of  Kinmundy,  in  Aberdeenshire, 
so  much  so  that  the  matter  evokes  the  royal  dis- 
pleasure, and  an  Act  of  Parliament  is  procured  to 
provide  for  the  punishment  of  the  culprits,  though 
we  are  not  enlightened  as  to  the  nature  of  the 
penalty  administered.^     A  feud  also  arose  with  the 

1  Exchequer  Rolls,  vol.  VI.,  p.  356.  ^  jbjd^  p.  357. 

^  Acta  Auditorum. 

244  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

Earl  of  Huntly  in  1474,  and  this  also  was  the  theme 
of  remonstrance  by  the  King,  who,  in  the  month  of 
March,  sent  letters  to  both  Earls  "  for  stanching  of 
the  slachteris  and  herschippes  committit  betwixt 
theer  folkis."^ 

Whatever  may  have  been  John's  relations  to  the 
Scottish  Crown,  on  the  one  hand,  or  to  his  neigh- 
bours in  the  North  and  West,  on  the  other,  his 
intercourse  with  his  own  dependants  seems  to  have 
been  of  the  friendliest  and  most  peaceful  character. 
So  true  is  this  that  beyond  the  granting  of  charters 
to  some,  and  the  confirmation  of  grants  to  others, 
the  records  of  the  period  have  almost  nothing  to  say 
as  to  the  relations  between  the  superior  and  his 
vassals  of  the  Earldom  of  Koss,  while  in  the  Lord- 
ship of  the  Isles,  since  the  last  outbreak  of  Donald 
Balloch,  a  wonderful  and  unwonted  calm  seems  to 
have  reigned  from  1462  to  1475.  All  this  is  an 
indication  that  whatever  may  have  been  the  foreign 
relations — if  we  may  use  the  term — of  the  Earl  of 
Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  there  seems  to  have 
been  harmony  and  concord  between  his  subjects  and 

At  last  the  ominous  quiet  is  broken,  and  all  at 
once  there  is  a  great  convulsion  and  upheaval.  The 
Treaty  of  Ardthornish  is  exhumed,  dug  out  of  the 
oblivion  to  which  for  twelve  years  it  had  been  con- 
signed, and  in  which,  no  doubt,  its  perpetrators 
prayed  that  it  might  for  ever  rest,  and  the  rash  and 
daring  instrument,  which  aimed  at  the  destruction 
of  a  great  State,  is  thrust  upon  the  notice  of  an 
astounded  and  indignant  nation.  The  Scottish 
Government  felt  that  the  ship  of  State  had  been 
sailing  among  hidden  yet  dangerous  rocks,  and  that 

1  Treasurer's  Accounts,  vol.  I.,  48. 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  245 

serious  disaster  had  by  no  means  been  a  remote 
contingency,  and  it  was  determined  to  take  resolute 
and  immediate  action  against  the  only  party  to  the 
compact  on  whom  the  hands  of  the  Executive  could 
be  laid.  The  Earl  of  Douglas  was  an  outlaw  beyond 
Scottish  jurisdiction  ;  Donald  Balloch  was  secure 
from  danger  amid  the  Antrim  glens ;  and  so  the 
Earl  of  Ross,  perhaps  the  least  culpable  of  the  con- 
tracting parties,  becomes  the  victim  and  scapegoat 
of  the  conspiracy. 

Highland  historians  do  not  afford  us  much  assist- 
ance in  tracing  the  causes  which  led  to  the  disclosure 
of  this  treaty,  a  disclosure  which  was,  to  all  appear- 
ance, a  gross  breach  of  faith  on  the  part  of  the 
Power  in  whose  archives  the  document  must  have 
been  preserved.  Yet  the  causes  that  led  to  the 
revelation  of  the  secret  may  be  estimated  with 
tolerable  accuracy,  if  not  with  absolute  certainty. 
In  1474  Edward  IV.  was  contemplating  the  invasion 
of  France,  and,  in  the  circumstances,  he  deemed  it 
his  wisest  policy  to  secure  his  frontiers  at  home  by  a 
treaty  of  friendship  with  the  Northern  Kingdom. 
A  treaty  was  consequently  drawn  up,  the  main  pro- 
vision of  which  appears  to  have  been,  that  a  contract 
of  marriage  should  be  entered  into  between  the 
Prince  of  Scotland,  son  of  James  HI.,  and  Cecilia, 
daughter  of  the  English  King,  the  subjects  of  this 
interesting  arrangement  having  attained  respectively 
to  the  mature  ages  of  two  and  four  years.  Into  the 
details  of  this  international  compact,  which  never 
came  to  anything,  it  is  beside  our  present  purpose  to 
enter.  We  refer  to  it  because  it  indicates  new  and 
friendly  relations  between  the  two  countries,  and 
because  it  would  be  impossible  for  Edward  IV., 
under  the  conditions  that  had  arisen,  to  continue 

246  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  promises  of  support  to  the  Earl  of  Douglas,  or 
abide  by  a  treaty  which  was  a  standing  menace  to 
the  quiet  and  integrity  of  the  sister  land.  There 
was  nothing  therefore  more  natural  than  that  in  the 
course  of  friendly  negotiations  between  the  two 
kingdoms,  in  1474,  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish  should 
have  issued  out  of  its  obscurity,  and  become  the 
signal  for  hostile  proceedings  against  the  Earl. 

After  the  discovery  of  the  Treaty,  the  Govern- 
ment seems  to  have  lost  little  time  in  calling  John 
of  Isla  to  account  for  his  twelve-year-old  treason, 
and  an  elaborate  process  was  instituted  against  him 
in  the  latter  months  of  1475.  On  the  20th 
November  of  that  year.  Parliament  met,  and  an 
indictment  containing  a  formidable  record  of  his 
political  offences  was  drawn  up.  In  the  forefront  of 
the  crimes  of  which  he  is  accused  stands  the  Treaty 
of  Ardthornish,  but  other  charges  of  treasonable  con- 
duct are  likewise  included  in  the  document.  The 
various  letters  of  safe  conduct  to  English  subjects 
passing  to  and  fro  between  the  two  countries,  the 
rebellion  of  1463  and  the  imperative  commands 
issued  then  to  the  King's  lieges  to  obey  his  bastard 
son  Angus  on  pain  of  death  ;  the  campaign  of  Donald 
Balloch,  his  siege  of  Rothesay  Castle,  and  his 
depredations  in  Bute  and  Arran,  with  the  slaughter 
of  many  of  the  King's  subjects,  events  of  a  much 
earlier  date  than  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish  ;  in  fact, 
the  whole  sum  of  John's  offences  from  the  beginning 
are  all  narrated  with  greater  or  less  fulness.  John 
himself,  hereditary  Sheriff  of  Inverness,  being  under 
the  ban  of  the  law,  Alexander  Dunbar  of  Westfield, 
Knight,  Arthur  Forbes,  and  the  King's  herald,  are 
conjointly  and  severally  appointed  Sheriffs  of  Inver- 
ness, by  special  royal  warrant  for  the  legal  execution 

DECLINIi;    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  247 

of  the  summons.  These  emissaries  of  the  law  are 
commanded  to  present  the  summons  personally  to 
John,  Earl  of  Ross,  in  presence  of  witnesses,  and  it 
is  enjoined  that  this  be  done  at  his  Castle  of  Ding- 
wall, but  the  prudent  proviso  is  inserted,  if  access 
thereto  should  with  safety  he  obtained.  Failing  this 
safe  delivery  of  the  citation  at  the  Castle,  it  was 
provided  that  it  should  be  made  by  public  pro- 
clamation at  the  cross  and  market  place  of  Inverness, 
while  it  bore  that  the  Earl  of  Boss  must  appear  in 
presence  of  the  King  at  Edinburgh,  at  the  next 
Parliament  to  be  held  there  on  the  1st  December 
following.  It  is  noticeable  that,  while  the  Parlia- 
ment which  authorised  the  summons  met  on  the 
20th  November,  1475,  the  document  was  issued 
under  the  great  seal  at  Edinburgh,  on  the  last  day 
of  the  previous  September.  It  is  evident  that 
Parliament  was  simply  called  together  to  endorse 
what  the  royal  prerogative  had  already  enacted.^ 

The  next  step  in  the  process  was  the  execution  of 
the  royal  summons,  and  this  also  took  place  before 
the  meeting  of  Parliament  on  20  th  November.  The 
copy  of  the  execution  of  citation  being  drawn  out, 
not  as  usual  in  Latin,  but  in  the  Scots  tongue  of  the 
day,  may  here  be  quoted  verbatim,  though  very 
much  a  repetition  of  what  has  gone  before  : — 

"The  xvj  day  of  Octobere  zeire  of  oure  Lorde  J*^  iiii°  Ixxv 
zeres  I  Unicorne  pursewant  and  Sheriff  of  Innuerness  in  thus  part 
specially  constitiit  be  our  souerain  lord  the  King  be  these  his 
letteres  past  to  the  Castell  of  Dingwail  in  Roisse  and  askit 
entrance  to  the  presens  of  Johne  Erie  of  Rosse  and  lorde  of  His 
the  quhilk  I  couth  no  get  and  than  incontinent  at  the  zetts  of 
samyn  Castell  I  summond  warnit  and  chargit  peremptorly  the 
said  John  erle  of  Rosse  to  compear  personaly  befor  our  souerain 
lord  the  King  in  his  burgh  of  Edinburgh  in  his  next  pliament  thar 

^  Acts  of  the  Scottish  Parliament,  vol.  II.,  p.  108. 

248  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

to  be  holdin  the  first  day  of  the  moneth  of  december  next  to  cu 
with  coutinuation  of  days  to  ansuer  til  our  said  souerain  lorde 
hienes  in  his  said  parliament  upon  the  tresonable  comonyng  with 
o\ir  souerain  lordes  ennemys  of  yngland  and  for  the  tresonable 
liges  and  baudes  mad  be  him  with  Edvarde  King  of  Yngland  and 
Inglysmen  And  for  the  tresonable  comonyng  with  the  tratour  Sre 
James  of  Douglas  sumtyme  erle  of  douglas  And  for  the  tresonable 
help  council  fauore  and  supple  gevin  be  him  to  the  sayme 
tratour  And  for  the  tresonable  gevin  of  save  conductes  to  our 
souerain  lordes  ennymys  of  yngland  And  for  the  tresonable 
usui'pacione  of  ouere  souerain  lordes  autorite  in  makin  of  his 
bastard  sone  a  lieutennand  to  him  within  ouere  souerain  lordes 
Realme,  and  comittand  powere  to  Justify  to  the  dede  oure 
souerain  lordes  lieges  that  ware  in  obedientis  to  him  And  for  the 
tresonable  connocacione  of  ouere  souerain  lordes  lieges  and 
sezeing  of  his  castel  of  Roithissay  in  bute  and  birning  slaing 
wasting  and  distrueying  of  oure  souerain  lordes  lieges  and 
landes  of  the  He  of  bute  efter  the  forme  contenit  in  letteres  And 
also  to  ansuere  upone  al  uder  crymys  ofFensis  transgressionis  and 
tresonable  dedes  comittit  and  done  be  the  said  Johne  erle  of 
Rosse  tresonably  againe  ouere  souerain  lorde  and  his  Realme  and 
til  al  ponctis  and  articulis  contenit  in  thes  letteres  and  efter  the 
forme  of  the  samyn  And  this  execucione  I  maid  befoir  thir  witnes 
donalde  waitsone  m°beth  Thome  donaldsone  wil  adamsone  Johne 
of  paryss  and  diuersis  utheris  And  attour  the  samyn  day  befoir 
the  samyne  witnes  1  summond  the  said  Johne  to  compere  as 
said  is  in  al  forme  and  effect  aboue  writtyne  And  also  the  samyn 
day  at  the  markat  corsse  of  Inuernes  I  summonde  be  opin 
proclamacione  the  said  Johne  erle  of  Roysse  in  forme  and  effect 
aboue  writtyne  to  ansuere  till  the  punctis  and  al  articulis  contenyt 
in  this  summondes  as  said  Is  befor  thir  witnes  Johne  leffare  henry 
finlaw  bailzeis  of  the  said  burgh  Johne  of  dunbare  Archibald 
brothy  and  diuersis  utheris  In  wittness  of  this  my  executione  I 
have  affixit  my  sele  to  this  my  Indorsyng  day  zeire  and  place 

befor  writtin 

"  Et  sic  est  finis  executionis"  ^ 

Two  other  similar  instruments  containing  weari- 
some repetitions  of  the  summons  and,  to  the  non-legal 
mind,  abounding  in  superfluities  follow  after  the 
foregoing,  the  sum  and  substance  of  the  enormous 

^  Acts  of  the  Scottish  Parhament,  vol.  II.,  p.  109. 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  249 

mass  of  verbiage  being  that  John  is  cited  to  appear 
at  Edinburgh  before  a  Parliament  to  be  held  on  the 
1st  of  December,  1475.  In  due  course  the  Conven- 
tion of  the  Estates  of  Scotland  met,  and  full 
certification  was  given  that  the  Earl  of  Ross  had 
been  lawfully  cited  at  the  cross  and  market  place 
both  of  Dingwall  and  Inverness,  John  not  com- 
pearing, Andrew,  Lord  of  Avondale,  Chancellor  of 
Scotland,  by  command  of  the  King,  charged  him  in 
presence  of  the  assembled  nobles  with  the  high 
crimes  and  misdemeanours  already  fully  detailed ; 
upon  which  it  became  the  unanimous  finding  of 
Parliament  that  his  guilt  was  established.  Finally, 
judgment  was  given  by  the  mouth  of  John  Dempster, 
Judge  for  the  time  being  of  the  Court  of  Parliament, 
that  for  the  treason  proven  against  him,  John,  Earl 
of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  had  forfeited  his  life 
as  well  as  his  dignities,  offices,  and  possessions, 
which  latter  were  thereby  alienated  not  only  from 
himself,  but  also  from  his  heirs  forever,  and  attached 
to  and  appropriated  by  the  Crown.  ^ 

These  drastic  proceedings  of  the  Scottish  Parlia- 
ment, were  immediately  followed  by  formidable 
preparations,  to  wring  from  the  attainted  noble  by 
force  what  he  would  not  voluntarily  concede.  Colin, 
Earl  of  Argyle,  already  scenting  from  afar  the  broad 
acres  of  the  Island  lordship,  willingly  adopted  the 
role  of  public  policeman,  and  accepted  with  alacrity 
of  a  commission  to  execute  the  decree  of  forfeiture 
which  had  recently  been  pronounced.^  It  does  not 
appear,  however,  that  Argyle  was  entrusted  with 
the  reduction  of  the  Earl  of  Poss  to  submission,  for 
in  the  following  May  a  strong  expeditionary  force 
was  raised  and  divided  into  land  and  naval  sections, 

^  Acta  of  Scottish  Parliament,  vol.  II.,  p.  111.  -  Argyle  writs, 

250  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

under  the  command  of  the  Earls  of  Athole  and 
Crawford  respectively,  for  the  invasion  of  John's 
extensive  territories.^  As  it  turned  out,  forcible 
measures  ceased  to  be  necessary  when,  on  the  advice 
of  Athole,  the  King's  uncle,  John  at  last  agreed  to 
make  a  voluntary  submission  and  throw  himself 
upon  the  royal  mercy.  Once  more  Parliament  met, 
and  on  1st  July,  1476,  John  appeared  before  it  with 
all  the  semblance  of  humility  and  contrition.  On 
the  intercession  of  the  Queen  and  the  express 
consent  of  the  nobles,  John  was  there  and  then 
pardoned  and  restored  to  all  the  honours  and  posses- 
sions he  had  forfeited.  Apparently  this  investiture 
was  only  a  form  for  enabling  him  to  denude  himself 
of  a  large  portion  of  his  inherited  estate.  The  same 
day  on  which  he  was  re-instated  he  made  a  voluntary 
resignation  of  the  Earldom  of  Ross  and  Sheriffdom 
of  Inverness  and  Nairn,  with  all  theii-  j)ertinents, 
castles,  and  fortalices  to  the  King.  He  did  so,  the 
record  says,  of  his  own  pure  and  free  accord ;  but 
we  may  well  believe  that  this  renunciation  was  the 
condition  of  his  being  restored  to  favour.  On  the 
same  day  the  King  confirmed  to  Elizabeth,  Countess 
of  Ross,  all  the  grants  of  lands  within  the  Earldom 
formerly  made  to  her  by  the  Crown,  as  not  being 
included  in  the  foregoing  renunciation.^  John, 
having  made  these  concessions,  received  in  recogni- 
tion of  his  obedience  a  new  distinction.  He  still 
remained  John  de  He,  and  retained  the  ancient 
heritage  of  his  house  with  the  old  historic  dignity, 
the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  which  no  Scottish  monarch 
had  bestowed  and,  from  the  Celtic  standpoint,  none 
could  take  away ;  but  the  ancient  honour,  with  all 

^  Chronicle  of  the  Earls  of  Ross,  pp.  15,  16. 
^  Acts  of  the  Scottish  Parliament,  vol.  II.,  p.  113. 

DECLINE    OF   THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  251 

the  proud  memories  it  enshrined,  was  now  combined 
with  the  gaudy  tinsel  of  a  brand  new,  spick  and  span 
title  of  Baron  Banrent  and  Peer  of  Parliament. 

It  soon  appeared  that  the  King  and  Government 
were  not  completely  satisfied  with  the  reduction 
which  had  thus  been  made  in  the  power  and 
possessions  of  the  Chief  of  Clan  Donald.  On  the 
26th  of  July,  the  same  month  that  witnessed  his 
surrender,  resignation,  and  partial  reinvestiture,  he 
received  a  formal  charter^  for  all  the  territories 
which  it  was  resolved  by  the  Government  he  should 
be  peimitted  to  retain.  This  charter  contains  evi- 
dence that  John  was  deprived  of  territories  other 
than  those  he  gave  up  in  his  resignation  of  1st 
July,  namely,  the  lands  of  Kintyre  and  Knapdale, 
with  which  exception  all  the  other  estates  which 
belonged  to  him  in  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles 
were  allowed  to  remain  in  his  possession.  The 
historian  of  Sleat  connects  the  loss  of  these 
lands  with  certain  dealings  which  John  had  with 
Colin,  Earl  of  Argyle,  and  while  the  details  of  his 
story  do  not  seem  very  probable,  there  is  every 
likelihood  that  that  wily  and  unscrupulous  nobleman 
and  courtier  may  have  had  something  to  do  with 
that  unfortunate  occurrence.  This  charter  of  1476 
contained  other  important  provisions  connected  with 
the  transmission  of  the  still  important  possessions 
and  honours  of  the  House  of  Isla.  John  had  no 
legitimate  male  issue,  but  the  family  succession  was 
secured  to  his  natural  son  Angus,  and  failing  him, 
to  his  natural  son  John  and  their  heirs  after  them, 
failing  legitimate  issue  of  their  father's  body. 

It  is  thus  plain  that  the  situation,  however 
disastrous,  was  not  withoiit  its  compensations,  and 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.  VIII.,  No.  132. 

252  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

that  John  issued  out  of  the  terrible  ordeal  in  which 
the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish  placed  him,  with  as  little 
loss  of  outward  estate  as  could  possibly  have  been 
expected  in  the  circumstances.  Others  not  more 
guilty  had  lost  life  and  property.  The  comparatively 
fortunate  result  may  be  attributed,  less  to  his  own 
sagacity  and  force  of  character,  than  to  the  leniency 
of  the  Crown,  and  contemporary  records  are  pretty 
clear  in  showing  that,  in  the  eyes  of  the  King,  blood 
was  thicker  than  water,  and  that  John's  kinship  to 
the  royal  line  of  Scotland  had  much  to  do  with  the 
large  measure  of  clemency  that  was  displayed. 
Had  John  been  a  stronger  man  than  he  was,  with 
the  political  calibre  of  his  namesake  "  the  good,"  or 
had  he  possessed  the  lofty  qualities  of  his  father 
and  grandfather,  he  might  either  have  avoided  the 
pitfalls  that  lay  in  his  path,  or  made  a  better  fight 
for  the  interests  at  stake  when  the  liour  of  trial 
came.  But  John,  even  discounting  the  forces  he 
had  to  contend  with,  was  the  weakest  potentate  of 
his  line,  and  there  must  be  something  after  all  in 
the  verdict  of  Hugh  Macdonald,  that  he  was  a 
"  meek,  modest  man.  .  .  .  more  fit  to  be  a 
churchman  than  to  rule  irregular  tribes  of  people." 
Taking  all  these  things  into  consideration,  the 
position  in  which  John  found  himself  after  the  con- 
vulsion of  1475-6  was  still  not  unworthy  of  the 
traditions  of  his  house ;  and  the  family  of  Isla, 
though  the  glory  of  their  territorial  position  was 
much  bedimmed,  still  occupied  one  of  the  highest 
places  among  the  nobles  of  the  land.  It  also 
appeared  as  if  an  era  of  peace  and  friendship  with 
the  Crown  was  beginning  to  dawn  upon  the  House 
of  Macdonald  when,  not  long  after  the  reconstruction 
of  John's  estate,  his  son  Angus  married  a  daughter 


of  that  eminent  Scottish  courtier,  Colin,  Earl  of 
Argyle.  That  instead  of  a  time  of  peace,  a  period  of 
almost  unprecedented  turmoil  and  conflict  was  at 
hand,  events  were  soon  to  show. 

The  scant  records  of  the  time  distinctly  prove 
that  the  large  sacrifice  of  his  status  and  possessions, 
which  the  head  of  the  Clan  Donald  had  been  com- 
pelled to  make,  proved  exceedingly  unpopular  among 
those  chieftains  and  vassals  who  were  directly 
descended  from  the  family  of  the  Isles.  The  exalted 
station  of  the  head  of  the  House  of  Somerled  shed  a 
reflected  lustre,  not  only  on  the  chiefs  of  the  various 
branches,  such  as  the  Clanranalds,  the  Sleats,  the 
Keppochs,  and  others,  but  upon  every  individual 
who  bore  the  name,  and  in  whose  veins  ran  the 
blood  of  Macdonald,  and  who  exulted  in  the  prestige 
and  renown  of  his  chiefs.  For  many  ages  the  Lords 
of  the  Isl  ?s  had  represented  the  ancient  Celtic  spirit 
and  social  life  in  Scotland,  which  outside  their 
influence  had  been  rapidly  disappearing,  and  despite 
the  paramount  and  growing  power  of  the  Scottish 
national  system,  these  potentates  had  continued  to 
maintain,  and  even  to  enlarge,  their  territories. 
Hence  the  idea  was  bound  to  prevail  and  gather 
force,  that  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in  surrendering 
great  interests  without  afibrding  his  devoted  vassals 
the  chance  of  striking  a  blow  in  defence,  had  failed 
to  keep  untarnished  the  name  and  honour  of  his 
clan.  Tlie  historian  of  Sleat  has  recorded  that  a 
chief  cause  of  John's  unpopularity,  during  the  days 
of  his  undiminished  greatness,  among  his  Clan 
Donald  vassals,  lay  in  his  improvident  grants  of 
land  to  the  chiefs  of  other  clans  who  were  vassals  of 
the  Isles,  such  as  the  Macleans,  Macleods,  Maoneills, 
and  others.     All  these,  however,  occupied  extensive 

^5i  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

tracts  of  territory  in  feu  from  John's  predecessors, 
and  it  does  not  appear  from  the  evidence  of  history 
that  John  was  in  this  respect  so  much  more  lavish 
than  his  sires,  or  that  he  to  a  large  extent 
impoverished  the  heritage  of  his  Family.  In  the 
eyes  of  those  who  sighed  over  the  fading  glory  of 
his  House,  the  gravamen  of  his  offence  consisted  in 
his  not  only  parting  with  the  Earldom  of  Ross, 
which  was,  after  all,  but  a  recent  possession  of  the 
Island  Family,  but  what  was  perhaps  more  galling 
to  the  amour  j^^^opre  of  the  Clan,  his  tamely  giving 
up  the  patrimonial  lands  of  Kintyre  and  Knapdale, 
the  heritage  of  the  Clan  Cholla  from  far  distant 
times.  This  was  undoubtedly  the  universal  and 
deeply  seated  sentiment  of  his  Clan — a  sentiment 
not  only  in  itself  excusable,  but  springing  from  a 
just  self-respect,  and  burning  as  it  did  with  a  fiery 
glow  in  the  bosom  of  many  a  valiant  clansman,  it 
needed  only  a  leader  or  head  to  give  it  fitting  and 
powerful  expression. 

It  is  equally  intelligible  that  the  other  vassals 
should  have  regarded  the  crisis  from  a  somewhat 
different  point  of  view.  The  clans  other  than  Clan 
Donald,  who  held  their  lands  from  John,  had  greatly 
increased  in  power  and  dignity  under  the  kindly 
sway  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles.  The  loss  of  sway 
by  their  superior  did  not,  however,  imply  their 
decadence.  On  the  contrary,  the  greatness  of  the 
Family  of  the  Isles  overshadowed  their  attempts  at 
self-assertion,  and  the  signs  of  a  new  order  of  things, 
in  which  they  might  rival  the  historic  house  in  pro- 
perty and  influence,  were  naturally  not  unwelcome. 
Thus  there  came  to  be  a  parting  of  the  ways  between 
those  clans  that  held  their  territories,  less  on  account 
of  ties  of  kinship,  and  more  by  the  bonds  of  feudal 


tenure,  and  those  other  tribes  who  regarded  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  not  merely  as  the  superior  of  their 
lands,  but  as  the  acknowledged  head  of  their  race. 
No  doubt  these  other  clans,  forming  as  they  did  a 
component  part  of  the  Island  lordship,  were  still 
deeply  interested  in  the  preservation  of  the  Celtic 
system  which  that  lordship  represented,  and,  as  a 
matter  of  fact,  we  find  them  in  after  years  fighting 
strenuously  for  its  restoration.  Yet  at  this  parti- 
cular crisis  these  clans  were  undoubtedly  less  zealous 
for  the  maintenance  of  the  honour  and  glory  of  the 
House  of  Isla  than  the  Clan  Donald  itself,  and  that 
most  probably  for  the  reasons  that  have  been 
assigned.  Hence  we  find  them  adhering  to  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles  in  his  attitude  of  concession  and 
submission,  while  the  Clan  Donald,  eager  for  the 
maintenance  of  the  ancient  power  of  the  Family, 
sympatliised  with  a  policy  of  greater  boldness  and 
less  compromise,  while  they  found  in  Angus  Og,  the 
son  and  heir  of  John,  the  hero  and  exponent  of  their 

We  are  far  from  giving  an  unqualified  assent  to 
the  verdict  of  previous  writers  who  have  dwelt  uj)on 
the  career  and  character  of  Angus,  All  modern 
historians  who  have  discussed  the  theme,  from 
Gregory^ — who  says  that  the  violence  of  his  temper 
bordered  on  insanity — down  to  the  latest  historian 
of  the  Clan,  have  limned  his  portrait  with  brushes 
dipped  in  darkest  hues.  To  say  the  least  of  it,  the 
materials  for  the  formation  of  any  such  judgment 
are  of  the  scantiest.  That  Angus  behaved  with 
brutal  violence  to  his  father,  is  a  statement  that  has 
been  accepted  upon  the  sole  authority  of  the  historian 
of  Sleat,   who   has   circulated   not   a  few  myths  in 

^  Highlands  and  Islands,  p.  54. 

256  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

connection  with  the  Clan  of  which  he  writes.  The 
tradition  of  filial  impiety  he  has  embodied  in  the 
strange  tale,  that  Angus  Og  in  his  family  residence 
at  Finlaggan  drove  his  father  out  of  seven  sleeping 
apartments  successively,  at  last  compelling  him  to 
take  shelter  under  cover  of  an  old  boat  for  the  night, 
and  that  next  morning,  on  returning  to  the  house,  the 
old  man  uttered  maledictions  against  his  son.^  A 
legend  such  as  this,  in  which,  like  all  legend,  there 
may  be  a  germ  of  truth,  would  need  strong  con- 
firmatory evidence  to  make  it  credible  in  all  its 
improbable  details,  and  may  very  well  hav^e  been 
propagated  by  the  vassals  of  the  Isles  other  than 
Clan  Donald,  who  supported  the  yielding  policy  of 
John,  and  were  antagonistic  to  the  stronger  attitude 
of  his  son.  That  in  the  circumstances  which  led 
Angus  in  public  matters  to  oppose  his  father, 
regrettable  scenes  may  have  occurred,  angry  words 
been  spoken,  and  stormy  interviews  taken  place  by 
which  the  two  became  estranged,  may  freely  be 
admitted.  That  Angus  was  hot  tempered  and  even 
violent,  in  an  age  when  the  Pagan  virtues  of  courage 
and  determination  were  more  esteemed  than  the 
Christian  graces  of  patience  and  self-restraint, 
especially  in  a  fierce  and  warlike  community,  need 
not  be  denied;  but  that  his  fiery  temper  partook  of 
the  insanity  and  unreasoning  fury  which  historians 
one  after  another  have  described,  there  is  really  no 
evidence  to  prove.  It  is  not  surprising  that  the 
circumstances  of  his  family  and  race,  and  the 
depressed  condition  into  which  they  had  fallen 
under  his  father's  reign,  proved  vexing  to  a  proud 
and  resolute  spirit,  and  if  it  is  borne  in  mind  that 
his  eflbrts  were  all  along  directed  towards  the  re- 

'■  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis. 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISL.i.  257 

building  of  the  ruined  fabric  of  the  family  state, 
his  conduct  will  appear  intelligible,  and  from  his 
particular  standpoint  worthy  of  praise. 

Whatever  estimate  may  have  been  formed  of 
Angus  Og  by  the  outside  world — and,  no  doubt, 
he  proved  himself  a  terror  to  his  foes — he  was 
certainly  a  great  favourite  with  those  of  his  name 
and  lineage.  Not  only  did  they  esteem  his  heroism 
and  regard  him  as  the  restorer  of  their  pristine 
greatness,  but  they  loved  him  for  his  own  sake. 
He  possessed  the  popular  manners  and  generous 
impulses  of  his  race.  He  was  open-handed  and 
liberal  with  his  means,  and  while  he  was  brave  as 
a  lion  on  the  field  of  battle,  he  followed  with  zest 
those  sports  and  recreations  with  which  even  the 
most  warlike  beguiled  the  tedium  of  peace.  He 
was  a  keen  lover  of  the  chase,  and  his  unbounded 
hospitality  in  the  banquetting  hall  was  affectionately 
remembered  in  after  times.  He  also  seems  to  have 
possessed  the  same  pleasing  aspect  and  luxuriant 
flowing  locks  which  were  characteristic  of  his  scrip- 
tural prototype — the  rebellious  son  of  David. ^  Such 
was  unquestionably  the  verdict  of  his  contemporary 
clansmen,  and  their  devotion  was  evinced  by  the 
unanimous  support  accorded  him  in  all  his  under- 
takings. Such  could  hardly  have  been  the  case 
had  Angus  Og  been  the  deep  dyed  villain  whom 
certain  historians  have  portrayed. 

There  is  very  great  uncertainty  as  to  the  sequence 
of  events  during  the  years  that  followed  the  for- 
feiture and  partial  restoration  of  John,  Lord  of  the 
Isles.  Down  to  the  fall  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles, 
chronological  difficulties  abound.  There  is  evidence, 
however,  that  from  1476  onward,  Angus  Og,  sup- 

^  Poem  by  John  of  Knoydart  in  the  Dean  of  Lismore's  book. 


258  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

ported  by  the  general  sentiment  of  the  Clan,  resisted 
what  with  some  reason  was  considered  his  father's 
pusillanimous  surrender.  Undoubtedly  the  begin- 
ning of  the  long  series  of  troubles,  which  filled  the 
remaining  years  of  the  history  of  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles,  was  associated  with  John's  deprivation  of  the 
lands  of  Knapdale  and  Kintyre.  Castle  Swin,  in 
North  Knapdale,  long  ago  the  scene  of  Alexander 
of  Isla's  discomfiture  by  Bruce,  and  destined  in  a 
future  century  to  play  a  part  in  the  annals  of  the 
Clan,  was  from  1476  to  1478  the  scene  of  operations 
evidently  carried  on  for  the  restoration  of  the  sur- 
rounding territory  to  the  family  from  which,  in  the 
opinion  of  its  vassals,  it  had  been  unrighteously 
diverted.  Whether  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  had  been 
art  and  part  in  the  rebellious  proceedings  or  not,  he 
was  held  responsible  for  what  was  done,  and  the 
following  summons  issued  to  him  in  1478  contains  an 
account  of  the  hostilities  which  called  for  the 
attention  of  the  Government  : — • 

"Parliament  held  in  Edinburgh  6th  day  of  April,  1478. 
"  The  seventh  day  of  the  moneth  of  Aprile  the  secund  day  of 
the  said  Parliament  Johnne  lord  of  the  His  lauchfully  personali 
and  peremptoiirli  summond  to  the  said  day  to  ansuer  to  owre 
souerain  lorde  the  King  in  his  said  parliament  for  his  tresonable 
assistence  covmsale  fauoures  help  and  supportacioune  geveing  to 
his  Rebellis  and  tratoures  being  In  the  Castell  of  castelsone^  And 
for  art  and  part  of  the  tresonable  stuffing  of  the  said  Castell  with 
men  vitalis  and  Arm  is  for  weire  And  for  the  tresonable  art  and 
part  of  the  holding  of  the  said  Castell  contrare  to  the  Kinges 
maieste.  And  for  his  manifest  Rebellioun  agane  the  King  oure 
souerain  lord  making  weire  apoune  his  lieges  Attoure  his  forbid- 
ding And  for  supportacioune  and  Resetting  of  the  Kingis  Rebellis 
donald  gorme  and  Neile  Makneile  and  thair  complices  the  quhilkes 
dali  Invades  the  Kinges  lieges  and  distrois  his  landes.  And  for 
uther  tresouns   transgressionis   and  Rebelliouns  again   oure  said 

■*  Castle  Swin, 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF   ISLA.  259 

soueraiu  lordes  maieste  wro*  and  committit.  The  said  lord  being 
oft  tymes  callit  and  not  comperit  the  summonds  being  lauchfull 
tyme  of  day  biding  thereafter  Ouer  souerain  lord  with  the 
avise  of  the  thre  estatis  continewis  the  said  cause  and  accioun  of 
summondis  maid  uppoune  the  said  Johnne  of  Islis  to  the  secund 
day  of  the  moneth  of  Juin  nixt  to  cum  with  contlnuacioune  of 
dais  to  his  parliament  to  be  haldin  at  his  burgh  of  Edinburgh 
And  to  begyn  the  first  day  of  this  moneth  of  Juin  forsaid  w* 
continuatione  of  dais. 

"  In  the  sammyn  forme  strinth  and  effect  as  it  now  is."  ^ 

The  opinion  has  been  advanced  that  a  second 
forfeiture  ensued  as  a  consequence  of  the  rebelHon 
which  the  foregoing  citation  records,  and  that, 
similar  to  the  first,  it  was  soon  followed  by  John's 
second  reinstatement  in  his  property.  The  evidence 
for  this  belief  is  contained  in  a  charter  of  16th 
December,  1478,  containing  very  nearly  the  same 
provisions  as  that  of  1476.  Had  not  the  forfeiture 
taken  place  a  second  time,  it  is  supposed  that  this 
re-grant  would  have  been  unnecessary,  both  charters 
having  been  given  under  the  hand  of  James  III., 
and  neither  requiring  confirmation  save  in  such  cir- 
cumstances as  we  have  described.  It  is  not  clear, 
however,  that  any  such  forfeiture  and  restoration 
took  place  in  1478,  or  that  the  charter  of  that  year 
contains  proof  of  such.  As  the  tenor  of  tliat  docu- 
ment shows,  there  is  simply  a  confirmation  by  the 
King,  now  having  attained  his  majority,  of  the 
grant  made  by  him,  as  a  minor,^  to  John,  Lord  of 
the  Isles,  in  1476.  In  other  respects,  both  charters 
are  in  identical  terms.  Similar  provision  is  again 
made  for  continuing  the  family  succession  through 
Angus  Og,  and  as  John,  the  second  son  of  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles,  is  not  mentioned  in  the  deed,  we 
conclude  that  he  died  in   the  interval.      It   seems 

1  Acts  of  Scottish  Parliament,  vol.  XH.,  p.  115. 

260  THE    CLAX    DONALD. 

probable  that  John  satisfied  the  Government  that 
the  irregularities  complained  of  had  been  perpetrated, 
if  not  without  his  knowledge,  at  anyrate  contrary  to 
his  wishes,  and  that  he  was  successful  in  procuring 
pardon  for  his  son,  Angus  Og,  who  was  now 
beginning  to  display  decided  symptoms  of  unwilling- 
ness to  accept  of  the  situation  created  by  the 
misfortunes  of  his  father. 

From  1478  to  1481  a  fair  condition  of  tran- 
quillity seems  to  have  prevailed  in  the  Highlands 
and  Islands  generally.  The  Government  seem  to 
have  been  so  convinced  of  the  loyalty  of  John  of 
Isla.  that  in  the  latter  year  large  tracts  of  land  in 
Kintyre,  formerly  in  his  possession,  were  now 
re-conveyed  by  royal  charter  for  his  life-time,  as  an 
acknowledgment  of  faitliful  service.  It  may  be  of 
interest  to  some  of  our  readers  if  the  places  desig- 
nated in  this  charter  are  here  detailed.  They  are 
as  follows : — 

"The  12  merklands  of  Kille'wnane,  the  6  merklands  of  Owgill, 
Auchnaslesok,  Acheucork  and  Kenochane,  the  9  merklands  of  the 
two  Knokreuochis,  Glenmorele,  Altnabay,  BaduflP,  et  Areakeauch  ; 
the  5  merklands  of  the  two  Tereferguse  and  Largbane  ;  the  3 
merklands  of  Kynethane  and  Hening  ;  the  6  merklands  of  the  two 
Knokantis  and  Calybole ;  the  5  merklands  of  Lossit  and  Glen- 
hawindee  ;  the  4  merklands  of  Balleygrogane  and  Cragok  ;  the  8 
merklands  of  Catadill,  Gertmane,  Gartloskin,  Bredelaide,  and 
Keppragane ;  the  2  merklands  of  Balleubraide  ;  the  4  merklands 
of  Kilsolaue ;  the  2  merklands  of  Achnaclaich  ;  the  2  merklands 
of  Teridonyll ;  the  1  merkland  of  Lagnacreig ;  the  1  merkland  of 
Kerowsovre ;  the  1  merkland  of  Gartloskin  ;  the  3  merklands  of 
Glenraskill ;  the  2  merklands  of  Glenvey ;  the  4  merklands  of 
Browneregyn,  Drumtyrenoch,  Dalsmerill,  Lagnadaise,  and  Enyn- 
cokaloch :  with  the  half  of  the  1  merklands  of  Kildallok  and 
LoDochane ;  the  half  of  the  2  merkland  of  EUerich  and  Arron- 
arroch  ;  the  13  merklands  of  Cralekill,  Macharanys,  Darbrekane 
and  Clagkeile  ;  claimed  by  Maknele,  lying  in  the  lordship  of 
Kintyre  and  sheriffship  of  Tarbert : — And  also  he  granted  to  the 

DECLINE    OF   THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  261 

said  John  for  the  whole  term  of  his  life  the  lands  underwritten, 
viz.  : — the  12  merklands  of  Arvmore  :  the  21  merklands  of 
Owragag,  AchtydownegaU,  Scottomrl,  Drummalaycht,  Downskeig, 
the  Lowb,  Lemnamwk,  Gartwaich ;  the  31  merklands  of  Barmore, 
Garalane,  Achnafey,  Strondowr,  Glenmolane,  Gleuraole,  Largbanan, 
Barnellane,  Kowildrinoch,  Glannafeoch,  Ardpatrick,  Ardmenys, 
Largnahouschine,  Forleyngloch,  Crevyr,  and  Drumnamwkloch ; 
the  4  merklands  of  Kilmolowok  ;  the  2  merklands  of  Drumdresok  ; 
the  4  merklands  of  Schengart;  the  4  merklands  of  the  two 
Bargawregane  ;  the  2  merklands  of  Clachbrek ;  the  4  merklands 
of  Barloukyrt  ;  the  1  merkland  of  Altbeith ;  the  1  merkland  of 
Cragkeith  ;  the  27  merklands  of  Achetymelane,  Dowynynultoch, 
Renochane,  Kilcamok,  Gartnagrauch,  and  Ormsay  claimel  by 
Maklane  and  Maknele  and  lying  iu  the  lordship  of  Knapdale  and 
sheriffdoms  of  Tarbert.''^ 

No  sooner,  however,  did  matters  seem  to  be 
settlingr  down  than  we  find  Ancfus  Og;  and  his 
clansmen  once  more  launching  the  thunderbolts  of 
war.  For  the  events  of  the  period  at  which  we 
have  now  arrived,  and  embracing  a  long  term  of 
vears,  we  have  little  to  guide  us  beyond  the 
unreliable,  conflicting,  and  exaggerated  accounts 
which  have  been  handed  down  to  us  by  family 
historians,  and  we  are  like  mariners  on  an  unknown 
sea,  the  chart  for  which  is  blurred  and  dim,  and  the 
compass  disturbed  bv  the  neighbourhood  of  magnetic 
influences.  Out  of  these  materials  it  seeiiis  hopeless 
to  construct  a  clear,  consistent,  or  intelligible  nar- 
rative. In  one  MS.  history  of  the  Mackenzies. 
Anofus  Oe:  is  made  to  fio^ht  a  battle  which  took 
place  after  his  death  ;  while  his  uncle  Celestine,  who 
died  in  1473,  is  killed  at  the  battle  of  Park  in  1491. 
The  battle  of  Lagabraad,  in  which  the  Mackenzies 
were  defeated  bv  Angrus  Ogr,  has  failed  to  find  a 
record  in  the  chronicles  of  that  family,  while  the 
battle    of  Park,    in   which    the    Macdonalds    were 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  US5. 

262  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

worsted,  is  honoured  with  particular  and  detailed 
notice.  Such  being  the  character  of  the  records 
with  which  we  have  to  deal,  it  is  obvious  that  great 
caution  has  to  be  observed  in  separating  fact  from 

On  the  whole,  there  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that 
the  invasion  of  Ross  by  Angus  Og  took  place  in 
1481,  nor  is  there  any  improbability  in  the  story 
that  it  sprung  out  of  one  of  those  family  feuds  with 
which  the  history  of  the  Highlands  so  largely 
abounds,  though  doubtless  other  and  deeper  motives 
may  have  been  at  work.  On  the  forfeiture  of  the 
Earldom  of  Ross  in  1475,  the  Mackenzies,  who  had 
previously  been  vassals  of  Macdonald,  became 
vassals  of  the  Crown,  and  as  such,  began  to  assume 
a  certain  measure  of  territorial  dignity  and  import- 
ance. About  that  time,  or  shortly  thereafter, 
Kenneth  Mackenzie,  son  and  heir  to  Alexander 
Mackenzie  of  Kintail,  or  as  he  was  known  in  his 
day,  Alastair  Io7iraic,^  married  Lady  Margaret  of 
the  Isles,  daughter  of  John  of  Isla,  and  half- 
sister  to  Angus  Og.  The  lady  is  said  to  have 
been  blind  of  an  eye,  and  her  value  as  an  eligible 
bride  was  thereby  greatly  diminished  in  the 
matrimonial  market.  Yet  there  is  no  doubt  that 
Kenneth  Mackenzie,  or,  as  he  afterwards  came  to  be 
known,  Coinneach  a  Bhlair,^  without  any  disparage- 
ment to  his  dignity,  was  considered  to  have  made  a 
brilliant  match  in  marrying  a  daughter  of  the  House 
of  Isla,  even  with  so  serious  a  facial  disfigurement  as 
the  loss  of  one  of  her  eyes.  Their  married  life  was 
neither  long  nor  happy,  and  it  is  clear  that  Kenneth's 
conception  of  conjugal  fidelity  was  in  no  wise  in 
advance  of  the   practical  ethics  of  his   day.     The 

^  Meaning  Alexander  the  upright  ^  Kenneth  of  the  Battle,  meaning  Park. 

DECLINE    OF   THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  263 

story  goes  that  Angus  Og  was  in  the  North,  living 
in  the  castle  of  Balconie,  in  the  parish  of  Kiltearn,  a 
house  which,  with  the  surrounding  lands,  appears  to 
have  been  left  in  possession  of  the  Countess  of 
Ross  after  the  forfeiture  of  the  earldom,  and  thus 
continued  a  residence  of  the  Macdonald  Family  in 
that  region.  Angus,  true  to  his  reputation  for 
hospitality,  gave  a  feast  to  the  old  vassals  and 
retainers  of  his  family,  no  doubt  with  the  object  of 
ingratiating  himself  with  them,  in  view  of  possible 
designs  in  the  future.  Balconie  Castle  was  under- 
going repairs,  and  the  guests  were  insufficiently 
provided  with  sleeping  accommodation.  Macdonald 
was  compelled,  in  consequence  of  this  deficiency,  to 
arrange  some  of  the  outhouses  as  sleeping  apart- 
ments for  his  friends.  Maclean  of  Duart,  Macdonald's 
chamberlain,  offered  to  accommodate  the  redoubtable 
Kenneth  in  the  kiln,  deeming  that,  as  a  friend  of  the 
family,  such  a  liberty  might  be  taken.  Kenneth, 
with  the  irascibility  bred  of  an  undue  sense  of  self- 
importance,  considered  his  dignity  grossly  insulted 
by  the  bare  suggestion  of  such  an  idea,  and  fetching 
a  blow  with  all  the  might  of  his  fist,  struck  Maclean 
in  the  ear  and  felled  him  to  the  ground.  The  savage 
and  gratuitous  assault  was  felt  to  be  a  blow  no  less 
aimed  at  their  chief  than  at  his  vassal,  and  the  Clan 
Donald  blood  rising,  weapons  began  to  be  handled. 
Kenneth  and  his  retinue,  deeming  it  the  more 
prudent  course  to  eschew  the  festivities,  immediately 
took  to  their  heels.  Finding  a  number  of  boats  on 
the  shore  below  the  house,  they  sank  all  but  one,  in 
which  they  crossed  to  the  Black  Isle,  thus  for  the 
time  being  baffling  all  pursuit.  Next  day  Kenneth 
found  his  way  to  Kinellan,  and  was  immediately 
followed  by  a  threatening  message  from  Angus  Og, 

264  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

commanding  himself  and  his  father  and  household  to 
quit  the  place  within  twenty-four  hours,  giving  the 
Lady  Margaret  liberty  to  move  in  a  more  leisurely 
manner,  as  best  suited  her  convenience.  Kenneth 
was  of  course  highly  incensed  on  receiving  such  a 
message,  and  returned  an  indignant  answer,  but 
meanwhile  commenced  his  reprisals  by  the  cowardly 
device  of  wreaking  vengeance  upon  his  unoffending 
wife.  The  method  of  his  revenge  has  done  service 
in  tales  of  later  times,  but  there  is  reason  to  believe 
that  Coinneach  a  Bhlair  deserves  all  the  discredit 
of  being  the  original  inventor  of  the  cruel  insult. 
He  sent  his  wife  home  to  Balconie  riding  on  a  one- 
eyed  horse,  attended  by  a  one-eyed  servant,  followed 
by  a  one-eyed  dog.  Soon  thereafter  he  took,  with 
no  ceremony,  a  lady  of  the  family  of  Lovat  to  wife, 
showing  the  free  and  easy  manner  in  which  the 
nuptial  knot  was  sometimes  tied  and  loosened  in 
these  olden  days. 

The  proud  scion  of  the  family  of  Isla  could  ill 
brook  the  additional  insult  so  savage  and  deliberate 
in  its  conception.  The  grotesqueness  of  the 
monocular  retinue  evinced  a  cruelty  and  malice 
which  could  be  interpreted  in  no  other  light  than  a 
wanton  and  deliberate  insult  not  only  to  Lady 
Margaret  but  her  whole  kith  and  kin.  Angus  Og 
was  determined  to  be  avenged  upon  Mackenzie  ;  but 
it  soon  appeared  that  the  private  feud  was  but  the 
pretext  for  more  extensive  designs,  the  invasion  and 
forcible  acquisition  of  the  whole  Earldom  of  Ross. 
With  this  in  view,  Angus  collected  a  large  force  in 
the  Isles,  as  well  as  in  those  regions  of  the  mainland 
where  the  Macdonald  influence  was  still  pre- 
dominant. The  Keppochs,  Glengarrys,  and  many 
other  clansmen  from  the  Isles  rallied  to  his  standard, 


and  with  a  formidable  force  he  set  out  for  Boss. 
The  Government,  by  this  time  realising  that  they 
were  face  to  face  with  a  rebellion  of  some  magnitude, 
commissioned  the  Earl  of  Athole  to  march  against 
and  subdue  the  Islesmen.  That  nobleman,  putting 
himself  at  the  head  of  the  Northern  Clans,  including 
the  Mackenzies,  Mackays,  Brodies,  Frasers,  and 
Bosses,  took  the  field  against  the  Western  host. 
The  two  armies  met  at  a  place  called  Lagabraad, 
and  a  sanguinary  battle  was  fought,  which  resulted 
in  the  triumph  of  Angus  Og  and  the  utter  rout  of 
his  opponents.  There  were  slain  of  Athole's  army 
517  men,  the  chief  of  the  Mackays  was  taken 
prisoner,  while  Athole  and  Mackenzie  narrowly 
escaped  with  their  lives.  ^  So  far  as  we  can  gather 
amid  so  much  uncertainty  as  to  the  actual  sequence 
of  events,  this  battle  was  fought  about  1483.  It 
proved  that  Angus  Og,  as  a  brave  and  accomplished 
warrior,  was  second  to  none  of  his  race,  and  that  if 
he  had  received  the  possessions  of  his  house  intact 
he  would  have  died  sooner  than  surrender  them. 

Soon  after  Lagabraad,  the  Government  gave 
instructions  to  the  Earls  of  Huntly  and  Crawford 
to  lead  a  new  expedition  against  this  formidable  and 
enterprising  rebel ;  but  it  is  not  clear  whether  they 
took  hostile  action  or  did  so  with  complete  success. 
We  are  equally  in  the  dark  as  to  the  result  of 
Angus'  victory  in  Boss,  or  whether  he  was  able  to 
maintain  his  hold  upon  any  part  of  that  extensive 
region.  The  next  time  light  falls  upon  this  obscure 
period  we  find  Angus  in  the  Isles  when  the  Earls  of 
Argyll  and  Athole  have  brought  about  an  interview 
between  himself  and  his  father  for  the  purpose,  it  is 
said,  of  effecting  a  reconciliation.     Well  might  father 

^  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis. 

2'66  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

and  son,  like  the  Trojans  of  old,  fear  the  Greeks 
when  they  came  with  gifts,  and  it  is  not  strange 
though  under  such  auspices  meek-eyed  peace  would 
not  descend.  The  old  lord  was  dominated  by  the 
party  of  the  Court,  Angus  commanded  the  steadfast 
devotion  of  the  Clan,  and  with  a  record  of 
triumphant  success  behind  him  he  was  not  likely  to 
yield  to  the  representations  of  the  Government 
without  the  retrocession  of  some  at  least  of  the 
rights  that  had  been  surrendered.  It  would  appear 
that  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  had  been  consistently 
loyal  in  his  subjection  to  the  Crown  since  1476,  and 
that  the  disturbances  that  took  place  subsequently, 
were  regarded  as  being  caused  by  his  warlike  son. 

When  the  curtain  next  rises  upon  the  dramatis 
personcB  in  the  Isles,  Angus  is  on  the  eve  of  the 
battle  of  Bloody  Bay.  Once  more  the  Earls  of 
Argyll  and  Athole  undertook  to  subdue  the  un- 
daunted rebel,  and  prepared  an  expedition  for  the 
purpose.  The  lords  and  chief  men  of  the  Isles, 
those  favouring  a  policy  of  concession  and  those 
that  supported  the  attitude  of  Angus,  sailed  in  their 
galleys  up  the  Sound  of  Mull,  and  ranged  along  the 
opposite  side  of  that  beauteous  waterway — one  of 
the  fairest  scenes  of  which  the  Western  Highlands 
can  boast — prepared  for  the  internecine  warfare. 
The  combination  against  Angus  Og  had  been 
organised  by  the  two  nobles  whose  names  appear 
so  prominently  in  the  annals  of  those  years  ;  but 
when  the  day  of  battle  came  they  seem  to  have 
kept  at  a  safe  distance.  Thus  it  came  to  pass 
that  in  this  fight  of  saddest  omen,  the  most  noted 
naval  battle  in  the  Isles  since  the  davs  of  Somerled, 
in  which  the  ancient  Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  being 
rent   in   twain,   the  Lord  of  the  Isles  was  left  in 


command  of  the  force  which  was  to  engage  the 
warriors  of  his  race  and  name  under  the  leadership 
of  his  own  son.  The  battle  fought  in  the  neighbour- 
hood of  Tobermory  was  fiercely  contested  and 
sanguinary.  Little  is  known  of  the  details  of  this 
memorable  engagement  beyond  what  has  been 
preserved  by  the  historian  of  Sleat.  Angus  Og's 
galleys  were  drawn  up  on  the  north  side  of 
Ardnamurchan,  and  detained  by  stress  of  weather 
for  a  space  of  five  weeks.  At  the  end  of  that  time 
the  laird  of  Ardgour  was  observed  sailing  up  the 
Sound,  and  he,  on  observing  Angus  Og  and  his 
fleet,  at  once  displayed  his  colours.  Donald  Gallach, 
son  of  Hugh  of  Sleat,  and  Ranald  Bane,  son  of  Allan 
MacKuari,  chief  of  Moidart,  were  in  the  company 
of  Angus  Og,  and  they  steered  towards  Maclean's 
galley.  This  was  the  signal  for  the  opposing  force 
coming  to  the  assistance  of  Ardgour,  conspicuous 
among  the  rest  being  William  Macleod  of  Harris. 
Ranald  Bane  grappled  Macleod's  galley,  while  one 
of  Ranald's  company,  Edwin  Mor  O'Brian  by  name, 
piit  an  oar  in  the  stern-post  between  the  helm  and 
the  ship,  which  immediately  became  unmanageable, 
and  was  captured  with  all  on  board.  Macleod  was 
mortally  wounded,  and  died  shortly  afterwards  at 
Dun  vegan.  Maclean  of  Ardgour,  who  was  taken 
prisoner,  had  a  narrow  escape  for  his  life,  Angus 
Og  is  said  bo  have  suggested  hanging,  and  this 
would  probably  have  been  his  end  were  it  not 
that  the  Laird  of  Moidart,  with  a  touch  of  humour, 
interceded  for  him  on  the  ground  that,  if  Maclean's 
life  was  taken,  he  himself  would  have  no  one  to 
bicker  with.  This  view  seems  to  have  commended 
itself  to  the  leader,  and  on  Ardgour  taking  the  oath 
of  fealty  he  was  spared,  presumably  to  save  Clan- 

268  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

ranald  from  too  monotonous  a  life.^  Here  we  are 
afforded  but  a  glimpse  of  an  incident  in  this  famous 
sea  figlit,  the  result  of  which  was  the  discomfiture 
of  Angus  Og's  opponents  and  his  own  secure  estab- 
lishment as  the  Captain  of  the  Clan  Donald.  So 
far  as  we  can  calculate  without  accurate  data,  the 
Battle  of  Bloody  Bay  was  fought  in  1484.^ 

Fateful  events  followed  each  other  in  rapid 
succession  during  these  later  years  of  the  Lordship 
of  the  Isles,  and  very  shortly  after  this  victory  of 
Angus  Og,  an  incident  occurred  which  aggravated 
the  enmity  between  the  opposing  parties,  and 
became  a  fruitful  cause  of  trouble  for  many  years 
to  come.  It  is  not  to  be  forgotten  that  the  agents 
in  provoking  this  outburst  of  renewed  bitterness 
were  the  two  noblemen  who,  a  few  short  months 
before,  are  alleged  to  have  done  their  utmost  to 
bury  the  hatchet  of  strife.  Angus  Og,  as  has 
already  been  stated,  was  married  to  a  daughter 
of  Colin,  Earl  of  Argyle,  probably  about  1480,  and 
at  the  time  of  the  battle  of  Bloody  Bay  this  lady, 
and  an  infant  son  Donald,  were  living  in  the  family 
residence  at  Finlaggan.  The  Earl  of  Athole,  with 
the  connivance  and  assistance  of  Argyle,  who 
furnished  him  with  boats,  crossed  secretly  to  Isla, 
stole  the  infant  son  of  Angus,  and  delivered  him 
to  Argyle,  who  immediately  sent  him  under  careful 
guardianship  to  the  Castle  of  Inchconnel  in  Lochow. 
The  reasons  for  this  shameful  abduction  do  not 
appear  to  us  very  far  to  seek.  We  do  not  wish  to 
bestow  unmerited  censure  even  upon  the  inveterate 
enemy  of  the  House  of  Isla,  but  facts,  however 
repulsive,  must  be  stated  unreservedly.     Even  the 

^  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis. 
^  According  to  a  History  of  the  Clan  Maclean,  by  "  Seanachie,"  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles  was  taken  prisoner  by  his  son  at  this  battle — p.  24. 

DECLINE   OF   THE   HOUSE    OF   ISLA.  269 

most  strenuous  apologists  of  the  House  of  Argyle 
can  hardly  get  the  facts  of  history  to  prove  that 
they  were  either  unselfish   or  unrewarded  in  their 
vaunted   support    of   Scottish    nationality,    or   that 
their  conduct  amid  the  turmoil  of  Highland  politics 
was    noble    or    disinterested.       The    abduction    of 
Donald  Dubh  was  an  act  of  unspeakable  meanness, 
and  was  instigated  by  the  basest  motives.     So  long 
as  there  was  an  heir  to  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  so 
long  was  there  a  likelihood  at  least,  of  the  Mac- 
donalds   retaining   the   family   inheritance,    and    so 
long  must  there  be  a  postponement  of  the  family 
of  Argyle  entering  into  possession  of  their  estates. 
To  prevent,  if  possible,  the  Macdonald  succession, 
Argyle  gets  hold  of  the  heir  presumptive,  with  the 
view  of  retaining  him  a  perpetual  prisoner.      Still 
further  to  prevent  the  succession  of  his  grandson, 
he  concocted   and  got  the   Government  to  believe 
the  story  of  Donald's  illegitimacy — a  pure  fabrica- 
tion to  promote  his  sinister  ends.     If  Donald  Dubh 
was  really  illegitimate,  that  fact  would  of  itself  sufi&ce 
to  prevent  his  succession  to  the  honours  and  posses- 
sions of  the  Clan  Donald,  and,  in  the  circumstances, 
the  Government  would   be  most  unlikely  to  grant 
a  charter  of  legitimation  in  his  favour.      Hence,  if 
the  story  had  been  true,  the  measure  of  consigning 
Donald  to  perpetual  captivity,  would  have  been  alto- 
gether unnecessary.    It  was  because  of  Donald's  legal 
birth,  and  his  undoubted  right  to  succeed  his  father, 
that  the  dastardly  device  was  adopted  of  stealing 
the  unoffending  and   ill-starred  child,  and  making 
him  virtually  a  prisoner  for  life.      Our  aspersions 
on  the  conduct   of  Argyle  in  connection  with  this 
particular  event   are  warranted   by  the   testimony 
of    history.       How,    indeed,    can    we    contemplate 
without  indignation  the  character  of  a  man  who, 

270  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

to  further  his  own  schemes  of  pohcy,  not  only- 
consigned  an  innocent  grandchild  to  a  living  death, 
but  cast  an  unfounded  suspicion  on  the  fair  fame 
of  his  own  daughter  ? 

It  is  not  by  any  means  surprising  that  this 
abduction,  in  which  A  thole  was  the  catspaw  of  the 
crafty  Argyle,  caused  the  deepest  resentment  in  the 
breast  of  Angus  Og,  and  no  sooner  did  it  come  to 
his  knowledge  than  he  took  immediate  steps  to 
execute  vengeance  on  the  actual  perpetrator  of  the 
deed.  Collecting  a  band  of  warriors  in  the  Isles, 
Angus  sailed  with  a  fleet  of  galleys  up  to  Inverlochy, 
a  landing-place  which,  from  its  position  in  the  far 
interior,  was  well  adapted  for  a  descent  upon  any 
part  of  the  North  of  Scotland.  The  Highland  host, 
disembarking  in  this  historic  scene,  marched  through 
the  great  mountain  passes  of  Lochaber  and  Badenoch 
until  at  last,  swooping  down  upon  the  lowlands  of 
Perthshire,  they  passed  into  the  region  of  Athole. 
Tidings  having  reached  Blair  of  the  rapid  approach 
of  the  Islesmen,  and  time  not  availing  for  the  organi- 
zation of  defence,  the  Earl  and  Countess  of  Athole, 
with  a  number  of  dependants  and  retainers,  and  a 
large  quantity  of  valuable  effects,  took  refuge  in  the 
sanctuary  of  the  Church  of  St  Bridget's.  There 
is  great  uncertainty  as  to  the  events  that  followed. 
The  facts  of  history  have  in  this  connection  been  so 
twisted  and  misplaced,  and  the  religious  preconcep- 
tions of  the  narrators  have  so  obscured  the  issue, 
that  it  is  well  nigh  impossible  to  extricate  the  real 
occurrences  from  the  mythological  haze  in  which 
they  are  enveloped.  The  consequence  is,  that  modern 
Scottish  historians  have  presented  us  with  a  blend 
of  legend  and  fact  which  does  great  credit  to  their 
imagination  and  eloquence,  but  very  little  to  their 

DECLINE    OF   THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  271 

critical  acumen.  The  historian  of  Sleat,  who  at  no 
time  is  the  apologist  of  Angus,  flatly  denies  the 
story  of  the  burning  of  St  Bridget's,  and  it  is,  no 
doubt,  to  be  placed  in  the  same  category  of  fabulous 
traditions  as  other  conflagrations  with  which  the 
family  historians  of  the  North  of  Scotland  have 
credited  the  Clan  Donald.  The  same  authority 
remarks,  with  truth,  that  the  Lords  of  the  Isles 
were  generous  benefactors,  and  not  the  destroyers 
of  churches,  and  this  is  more  than  can  be  said  of 
some  of  the  historical  houses  that  rose  upon  the 
rains  of  their  fallen  state.  Certain  facts  connected 
with  the  raid  of  Athole  seem  beyond  dispute.  That 
Angus  and  his  followers  invaded  the  sanctity  of  St 
Bridget's;  that  they  took  captive  within  that  shrine 
the  Earl  and  Countess  of  Athole,  in  revenge  for  the 
abduction  of  Donald,  Angus'  infant  son,  and  that 
probably  a  quantity  of  valuable  booty  at  the  same 
time  was  seized  ;  that  Angus  took  the  high-born 
captives  with  him,  by  way  of  Inverlochy,  to  Isla,  as 
hostages  for  the  restoration  of  his  son  ;  that  the 
hurricanes  of  the  wild  western  sea  may  have  engulfed 
some  of  the  treasure-laden  galleys  on  their  home- 
ward voyage  ;  that  the  leader  and  his  captains  in 
after  times  went  back  on  a  pilgrimage,  probably 
directed  by  Mother  Church,  to  seek  the  divine 
mercy  at  the  shrine  which,  in  their  wrath,  they  had 
desecrated  but  not  destroyed,  doing  so  with  all  the 
outward  symbols  of  contrition  which  the  piety  of 
the  age  prescribed  ;  and  that  the  Earl  and  Countess 
of  Athole  were  unconditionally  set  free  from  their 
captivity  in  Isla  after  the  expiry  of  a  year — all  this 
appears  to  be  fairly  well  authenticated.  But  the 
exaggerations  and  improbabilities  that  have  gathered 
round  the  facts  in  the  pages  of  the  credulous  chroni- 

272  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

cler — that  Angus  and  his  men  burnt  churches  whole- 
sale in  the  course  of  their  march  through  Athole ; 
that  they  tried  three  times  to  fire  the  Church  of  St 
Bridget's,  which  at  first  miraculously  resisted  the 
devouring  element  ;  that  when  they  launched  out 
into  the  open  sea  they  were  seized  with  such  judicial 
frenzy  that  they  were  unable  to  steer  their  ships, 
which  consequently  were  driven  by  the  tempest  on 
a  rock-bound  coast  and  wrecked — all  this  belongs  to 
the  large  mass  of  fable  with  which  the  history  of  the 
period  so  much  abounds.  The  act  of  sacrilege  and  the 
subsequent  act  of  penitence  are  both  characteristic  of 
the  time.  The  atonement  so  humbly  offered  by 
these  fierce  warriors  from  the  Isles  is  a  gleam  of  light 
athwart  the  dark  tale  of  vengeance.  It  shows  how, 
even  amid  the  violence  of  war  and  rapine,  the  sense 
of  responsibility  was  but  asleep,  needing  but  the 
shock  of  some  convulsion  or  catastrophe  to  rouse  it 
into  active  being.  The  Raid  of  Athole  took  place 
about  the  year  1485. 

Little  is  known  of  the  subsequent  career  of 
Angus  Og,  until  the  tragic  close  which  seems  to 
have  taken  place  some  five  years  later.  So  far  as  the 
government  of  the  Isles  was  concerned,  his  position 
was  unquestioned,  and  had  his  life  been  prolonged, 
the  vigour  and  determination  of  his  character  would 
not  improbably  have  done  much  to  restore  the 
ancient  power  of  his  family.  A  pleasing  feature  in 
these  latter  years  lay  in  his  reconciliation  with  his 
father.  Angus  Og  seems  never  to  have  abandoned 
his  scheme  for  the  conquest  of  Ross,  and  it  was 
probably  with  the  view  of  reducing  to  subjection 
the  old  vassals  of  the  Earldom,  and  particularly  of 
chastising  the   Mackenzies,   that   he   took  his  last 

/^         TOVT 



DECLINE    OF   THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  27S 

fatal  journey  to  the  North.  Angus  halted  at  Inver- 
ness, where,  as  was  his  wont,  he  gave  hospitable 
entertainment  to  his  friends  and  allies  in  that 
region.  The  story  is  told  by  the  historian  of  Sleat 
with  his  usual  amplitude  of  detail,  and  bears  upon 
the  face  of  it  the  mark  of  truth. 

The  heir  of  the  Lewis  had  been  recently  a  minor 
under  the  tutelage  of  Rory  Black  Macleod,  whose 
daughter  was  married  to  the  Laird  of  Moydart. 
Kory  the  Black  coveted  the  succession,  and  refusing 
to  acknowledge  the  true  heir  to  the  Lewis,  assumed 
the  lordship  himself  His  schemes,  however,  were 
thwarted  by  Angus  Og,  who  displaced  Bory  from 
the  position  he  usurped,  and  put  the  rightful  heir  in 
possession,  acting  in  the  matter  as  the  representative 
of  his  father,  of  whom  the  Macleods  were  vassals. 
The  Lady  of  Moydart,  Bory  the  Black's  daughter, 
moved  by  hatred  of  Angus  for  thus  vindicating  a 
righteous  cause,  compassed  his  death.  There  was  a 
harper  of  County  Monaghan,  named  Art  O'Carby, 
who  was  either  in  Macdonald's  retinue  or  a 
frequenter  of  his  establishment.  This  Lnsh  Orpheus 
conceived  a  violent  passion  for  the  daughter  of 
Mackenzie  of  Kintail,  who  was  at  feud  with  Angus 
Og,  and  it  would  appear  that  the  Lady  of  Moydart 
put  Mackenzie  up  to  the  scheme  of  promising  his 
daughter  in  marriage  to  O'Carby  if  he  did  away 
with  the  heir  of  the  Isles.  He  made  the  harper 
swear  never  to  disclose  the  secret  of  who  instigated 
the  deed.  The  Irishman  undertook  to  carry  out  the 
dark  conspiracy,  and  in  token  of  his  villainous 
intention  was  wont,  when  in  convivial  mood,  to 
repeat  doggerel  verses  of  his  own  composition,  of 
which  the  following  is  a  couplet  : — 


274  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

"  T'  anam  do  Dhia  a  mharcaich  an  eich  bhall-bhric 
Gu  bheil  t'  anam  an  cunnart  ma  tha  puinnsean  an  Gallfit." 

*'  Rider  of  the  dappled  steed,  thy  sovil  to  God  commend, 
If  there  is  poison  in  my  blade,  thy  life  right  soon  shall  end." 

One  night  after  Angus  had  retired  to  rest,  the 
harper  entered  his  apartment,  and  perceiving  he  was 
asleep,  killed  him  by  cutting  his  throat.  O'Carby 
was  apprehended,  but  never  confessed  who  his 
tempter  was,  or  what  inducement  was  held  out  as  a 
reward  for  the  murderous  act.  Jewels  found  upon 
him  which  formerly  belonged  to  Mackenzie  and  the 
lady  of  Moydart  proclaimed  their  complicity  in  the 
crime.  The  harper,  according  to  the  cruel  fashion 
of  the  time,  was  torn  asunder,  limb  from  limb,  by 
wild  horses.^ 

Thus  fell  Angus  Og,  and  although  the  Sleat 
historian  tells  us  that  his  father's  curse  visited  him, 
his  theory  of  retribution  hardly  fits  in  to  the  facts 
of  his  own  narrative.  Angus  fell  a  victim,  as  better 
men  have  done  before  him,  to  the  malignant  spite  of 
an  unscrupulous  and  designing  woman,  and  that  not 
for  any  deed  of  cruelty  or  oppression,  but  for 
upholding  the  cause  of  justice  in  the  succession  to 
the  Lordship  of  Lewis.  With  Angus  vanished  the 
best  hopes  of  the  Clan  Donald  for  the  restoration  of 
their  proud  pre-eminence,  and  there  is  surely  pathos 
in  the  thought  that,  as  the  Founder  of  the  Family 
in  historic  times  had  his  warlike  career  cut  short  by 
treachery,  so  now  three  hundred  years  later  the  last 
direct  representative  of  the  line  save  one,  also  died 
by  the  assassin's  knife.  Our  estimate  of  his  char- 
acter and  the  date  at  which  we  have  placed  his 
death,  are  both  confirmed  by  the  Irish  Annals  of 
Loch  Ce,  in  which  at  the  year  1490  the  tragedy  is 

^  Hugh  Macclonald  in  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  319. 

DECLINE    OP    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  275 

thus  referred  to  : — "  MacDhomhnaill  of  Alba,  i.e., 
the  best  man  in  Erin  or  in  Alba  of  his  time,  was 
unfortnnately  slain  by  an  Irish  harper,  i.e.,  Diarmaid 
Cairbrech,  in  his  own  chamber."^ 

At  the  period  to  which  we  have  now  come,  it 
may  well  be  said  that,  although  many  bright  pages 
of  the  story  of  the  House  of  Somerled  still  remain 
to  be  written,  yet  its  heroic  age  as  the  dominant 
power  in  the  Western  Isles  of  Scotland  is  beginning 
to  pass  away.  After  the  death  of  Angus,  the  Clan 
Donald  were  never  afterwards  united  under  a  leader 
so  able,  or  in  whom  they  reposed  such  confidence. 
From  1476  down  to  his  death  his  father's  head- 
ship of  the  house  was  nominal ;  for  it  was  round 
Angus  that  the  kindred  clans  rallied  at  every 
juncture  that  arose.  On  his  death,  John  again 
became  the  effective  ruler  in  the  Isles,  and  there 
was  still  a  possibility,  had  he  possessed  an  imperial 
spirit,  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  being  maintained. 
Not  long  after  Angus'  death,  John,  though  still  far 
short  of  extreme  old  age,  ceased  to  take  an  active 
part  in  the  government  of  his  territories,  which  he 
seems  to  have  surrendered  to  his  nephew,  Alexander, 
son  of  Celestine  of  Lochalsh.  Alexander  acted 
ostensibly  in  the  interests  of  Donald  Dubh,  who, 
though  still  in  prison,  was  undoubtedly  heir 
apparent  to  John  ;  but  as  there  was  little  hope  of 
his  ev^er  being  released,  Lochalsh  doubtless  contem- 
plated, with  few  misgivings,  his  own  succession  to 
the  Lordship  of  the  Isles.  At  the  same  time  it  is 
clear,  from  subsequent  events,  that  notwithstanding 
Donald's    continued    captivity,    the    Islesmen    were 

^  The  name  of  the  assassin  given  in  the  above  authority  differs  from  that 
given  by  Hugh  Macdonald,  which  is  "  Art"  (not  Diarmaid)  "  O'Cairbre," 
Hugh  Macdonald  in  Coll.  de  Rebus  Alb.,  p.  318, 

276  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

unanimous   in  regarding  him    as    his   grandfather's 
rightful  heir. 

It  had  often  been  the  fate  of  the  last  Earl  of 
Ross  to  be  under  the  influence  of  wills  more  imperi- 
ous and  resolute  than  his  own,  though,  strangely 
enough,  he  offered  a  stubborn  resistance  to  the  aims 
and  policy  of  his  son.  It  was  so  now  in  his  declining 
years.  He  who  had  so  strenuously  resisted  the 
resolute  stand  made  by  Angus  against  the  encroach- 
ments upon  the  family  estates,  now  abandoned  every 
attempt  to  curb  the  turbulence  of  his  nephew,  Alex- 
ander of  Lochalsh.  Whether  he  approved  of  the 
rising  of  1491,  or  whether  he  made  unavailing  pro- 
testations against  it,  we  are  unable  to  say.  All  we 
know  is  that  Alexander  seems,  without  any  delay, 
to  have  taken  up  the  schme  for  the  invasion  of 
Koss,  which  was  interrupted  by  the  death  of  Angus 
Og.  Owing  to  his  territorial  position  in  Wester 
Ross,  Alexander  naturall}''  possessed  great  influence 
in  that  region.  The  extensive  lands  of  Lochbroom, 
Lochcarron,  and  Lochalsh  were  his,  and  he  doubtless 
expected  that  the  other  vassals  of  the  earldom, 
always  of  course  excepting  the  Mackenzies,  would 
attend  the  summons  to  his  banner.  In  this  he  was 
to  a  large  extent  disappointed.  Still  his  following 
was  a  formidable  one.  The  whole  power  of  the 
island  and  mainland  Macdonalds,  along  with  the 
other  vassals  of  the  lordship,  and  the  Clan  Cameron, 
who  were  vassals  of  Alexander  for  the  lands  of 
Locheil,  formed  no  inconsiderable  array,  and  with 
all  these  resources  at  his  back,  he  might  hope,  with 
some  prospect  of  success,  to  win  back  the  inheritance 
which  his  uncle  had  lost.  Indeed,  he  possessed  far 
greater  resources  than  Angus  Og  was  ever  able  to 
command,  in  view  of  the  divided  state  of  the  Lord- 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  27f 

ship  of  the  Isles  in  his  time.  We  have  no  reason  to 
doubt  the  personal  bravery  and  prowess  of  Alex- 
ander, but  he  seems  to  have  lacked  that  inexplicable 
power  of  organising  forces  and  leading  them  to 
victory  w4iich  is  born  with  a  man,  and  constitutes 
the  true  commander.  Alexander  and  his  army, 
taking  the  time-honoured  highway,  marched  through 
Lochaber  into  Badenoch,  where  they  were  joined  by 
the  Clan  Chattan,  under  the  command  of  Farquhar 
Mackintosh,  captain  of  the  Clan.  Arriving  at  Inver- 
ness, which  he  stormed  and  garrisoned,  and  where 
he  was  joined  by  Hugh  Rose,  younger  of  Kilravock, 
the  only  vassal  of  the  Earldom  that  seconded  his 
undertaking,  Alexander  next  directed  his  march 
towards  Ross.  Invading  the  Black  Isle,  he  and  his 
host  penetrated  to  its  extremest  limit,  plundering 
the  lands  of  Sir  Alexander  Urquhart,  Sheriff  of 
Cromarty.  Authorities  are  agreed  that  at  this  stage 
Lochalsh  divided  his  forces  into  two  sections,  one 
detachment  having  been  sent  home  with  the  spoil, 
while  the  other  marched  to  Strathconan  to  ravage 
and  lay  waste  the  Mackenzie  lands.  Like  almost  all 
the  chronicles  of  this  age  bearing  upon  the  history 
of  the  Highlands,  the  aimals  of  this  campaign 
abound  in  absurd  inaccuracies  and  exaggerations. 
When  we  find  a  mythical  Celestine^  performing  deeds 
of  valour,  and  meeting  with  a  hero's  death  ;  Angus 
Og  or  his  father"  taken  prisoner,  but  soon  thereafter 
magnanimously  released  by  Coinneach  a  Bhlair ; 
Alastair  lonraic,  who  died  in  1488,  giving  his 
benediction  to  his  son  before  going  to  battle  ;  a 
supernatural  being  of  diminutive  stature  appearing 

^  For  this  and  the  most  of  the  other  fictions,  the  aijocryphal  MS.  history 
of  the  Mackeuzies,  belonging  to  the  Cromartie  Family,  is  responsible. 

2  It  is  difficult  in  some  parts  to  make  out  wliether  John  of  Isla  or  his  son 
Angus  is  meant. 

278  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  vanishing  mysteriously,  and  in  the  interval 
doing  great  havoc  among  the  invaders,^ — when  we 
find  all  this  taking  place  at  the  Battle  of  Park  in 
1491,  we  are  warned  that  the  stories  of  the  Northern 
chronicles  of  the  time  must  be  accepted  with  great 
reserve.  In  these  circumstances,  we  do  not  attach 
the  slightest  credence  to  the  legend  of  Contin  Parish 
Church  being  set  on  fire  by  Alexander  of  Lochalsh 
and  his  men  on  their  march  from  Strathconan. 
Neither  do  we  believe  that  Alastair  lonraic,  having 
departed  this  life  three  years  previously,  could  have 
congratulated  his  people — as  he  is  said  to  have  done 
— that  now  this  sacrilegious  act  had  enlisted  Omni- 
potence on  the  side  of  the  Mackenzies.  The  whole 
bombastic  and  inflated  Mackenzie  history  of  Blar  na 
Pairc  is  correct  only  in  this  one  particular,  namely, 
that  the  Macdonalds  were  worsted,  and  had  to  retire 
from  Ross. 

So  far  as  we  can  gather,  the  sober  facts  of  history 
in  this  connection  are  clear  enough.  Alexander  and 
his  men  arrived  at  Park  late  in  the  evening  after 
harrying  and  laying  waste  the  lands  of  Strathconan. 
Wearied  with  the  day's  labours,  they  slumbered  on 
the  field,  and  apparently  committed  the  fatal  over- 
sight of  keeping  neither  watch  nor  ward.  Mean- 
while Kenneth  of  Kintail,  who  was  by  all  accounts 
a  brave  warrior,  had  assembled  his  available  strength, 
and  now  under  the  silence  of  night,  while  the  Isles- 
men  were  asleep,  bore  down  upon  their  encampment."^ 
The  Macdonalds  were  taken  completely  by  surprise, 
and  there  ensued  one  of  those  panics  which  some 
times,  like  an  electric  shock,  have  been  known  to 
pass  through  bands  of  armed  men.  Their  con- 
fusion  became   hopeless  and   inextricable,   and   was 

^  New  Statistical  Account  of  FoMvrty,  p.  255. 
2  Hugh  Macdoiiald  in  Cull.  <Se-Re)).  Alb.,  p.  .321. 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF    ISLA.  279 

aggravated  by  the  boggy  nature  of  the  ground 
which  lay  between  them  and  the  river  Conon,  but 
with  which  their  enemies  were  well  acquainted. 
There  is  no  reason  to  question  the  tradition  that, 
while  many  were  put  to  the  sword,  a  considerable 
number  were  drowned  in  the  Conon,  towards  which 
they  were  driven  by  their  triumphant  foes.  Such 
was  the  Battle  of  Park,  an  illustration  of  the 
advantage  possessed  by  an  enemy,  resolute  and 
wary,  taking  an  encampment  by  surprise.  The 
result  was  the  retirement  of  Alexander  of  Lochalsh 
from  Ross,  and  his  abandonment  for  the  time  being 
of  all  attempts  to  accomplish  its  conquest.  It  has 
been  held  by  some  that  Park  was  fought  in  1488, 
but  the  evidence  is  all  in  favour  of  the  later  date. 
Angus  Og  was  alive  in  1488,  and  it  is  not  likely 
that  he  would  have  played  a  subordinate  part  in 
such  a  campaign,  or  that  Alexander  would  have 
borne  the  prominent  part  he  did  had  Park  been 
fought  in  the  lifetime  of  John  of  Isla's  son.  We 
find  also  that  in  1492  Sir  Alexander  Urquhart 
obtained  restitution  on  behalf  of  himself  and  others 
for  the  spoil  carried  away  by  the  Islanders,  and  it 
is  very  unlikely  that  a  claim  of  such  magnitude 
would  have  lain  dormant  from  1488.^  Hence  there 
seems  little  doubt  that  the  Battle  of  Park  was 
fought  in  1491. 

The  invasion  of  Boss,  undertaken  undoubtedly 
with  the  view  of  gaining  forcible  possession  of  the 
Earldom,  which  was  since  1476  vested  in  the  Crown, 
could  not  fail  to  be  regarded  as  an  insurrection 
against   the    State,    and,    as   such,    calling   for   the 

^  The  apoil  amounted  to  600  cows  autl  oxeu,  SO  lior«es,  1000  .slieei),  200 
swine,  500  bolls  victual— plenishing  £300  in  value,  and  £'600  of  the  mails  of 
the  Sheriff's  lands. 

280  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

severest  measures.  Whether  John  of  the  Isles 
approved  of  his  nephew's  rebelUon  or  not,  it  appeared 
to  the  authorities  that  the  time  had  come  for  depriv- 
ing him  finally  of  every  vestige  of  power  he  possessed. 
If  he  aided  and  abetted  in  the  proceedings  of  1491, 
he  would  appear  to  the  Government  in  the  light  of 
a  hopeless  rebel,  into  whom  the  experience  of  forty 
years  failed  to  instil  the  lessons  of  loyalty.  If  he 
disajiproved  of  but  failed  to  prevent  the  disorderly 
proceedings  in  Boss,  his  deprivation  would  seem 
equally  called  for,  on  the  ground  of  his  utter  inability 
to  exercise  authority  in  the  regions  or  over  the 
vassals  subject  to  his  sway.  It  was  on  one  or  other 
of  these  grounds  that  in  May,  1493,  John  was 
forfeited  in  all  his  estates  and  titles,  and  this 
measure  was  formally  implemented  by  himself  in 
1494,  when  he  made  a  voluntary  surrender  of 
them  all.^ 

Thus  fell  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  and  with  it 
the  dynasty  which  for  hundreds  of  years  had  con- 
tinued to  represent,  in  a  position  of  virtual  inde- 
pendence, the  ancient  Celtic  system  of  Scotland. 
The  natural  result  of  such  a  catastrophe  was  that 
for  a  long  term  of  years  the  region  that  had  been 
ruled  by  these  Celtic  princes  was  subject  to  pro- 
longed outbursts  of  anarchy  and  disorder.  There 
arose  a  vacuum  in  the  social  system  which  the 
authority  of  the  Scottish  State,  anti- Celtic  as  it  had 
increasingly  become,  failed  adequately  to  fill  up. 
Social  order  depends  as  much  upon  sympathy  with 
the  governing  Power  as  upon  force,  and  the  amal- 
gamation of  the  Celtic  and  Saxon  elements  of 
Scottish  society  must  inevitably  prove  a  long 
[>vocess.     Still  further,  while  the  feudal  position  of 

^  There  .-^eem^  to  be  no  public  record  of  thia  tinal  forfeiture. 

DECLINE    OF    THE    HOUSE    OF   ISLA.  281 

the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  one  that  Parliament 
could  abolish,  the  Highlanders  regarded  it,  not  as  a 
feudal,  but  as  a  Celtic  dignity,  older  than,  and  inde- 
pendent of,  the  Scottish  State — a  dignity  which  no 
individual  could  surrender,  and  no  King  or  State 
could  destroy.  Thus  it  was  that  for  two  generations 
after  John's  forfeiture  Highland  politics  swayed 
between  efforts  on  the  part  of  the  Crown  to  reduce 
the  Clans  to  subjection,  on  the  one  hand,  and 
spasmodic  movements  by  the  Clans,  on  the  other, 
to  restore  the  Celtic  order  which  they  loved,  by 
rallying  to  the  banner  of  one  scion  of  the  Family  of 
the  Isles  after  another,  each  of  whom  laid  claim,  with 
more  or  less  appearance  of  justice,  to  the  ancient 
honours  of  his  house. 

Events  of  consequence  transpired  between  John's 
political  demise  in  1494  and  his  death  in  1498,  but 
these  will  more  ajDpropriately  fall  to  be  considered 
in  a  succeeding  chapter.  At  this  stage  we  can  most 
fittingly  record  the  few  facts  that  are  known 
regarding  the  declining  years  of  the  last  of  the 
Earls  of  Ross  and  Lords  of  the  Isles.  What  we  do 
know  of  the  fallen  potentate  during  his  latter  days 
gives  us  a  sad  picture  of  departed  greatness.  He, 
the  descendant  of  kings,  lived  as  a  pensioner  upon 
the  bounty  of  James  IV.  down  to  the  day  of  his 
death,  having  his  clothes  and  shoes  and  pocket 
money  doled  out  to  him  like  a  pauper.  The  general 
belief  has  been,  and  historians  have  consistently 
followed  one  another  in  stating,  that  after  his 
forfeiture  John  lived  and  died  an  inmate  of  the 
Monastery  of  Paisley,  an  institution  that  had  in 
former  years  enjoyed  the  munificent  patronage  of 
the  House  of  Isla.  The  records  of  the  period  tell  a 
somewhat  difierent  tale.^     The  monastery  doubtless 

^  High  Treasurer's  Accounts. 

282  *HE   CLAN   DONALt>. 

was  his  home,  but  he  sometimes  left  it,  paying 
visits,  among  other  places,  to  his  old  dominions  in 
Lochaber  and  the  Isles.  At  last  we  find  him  falling 
sick  at  Dundee,  where  he  dies  in  an  obscure  lodging- 
house,  and  the  sum  due  to  his  landlady  and  the 
expenses  of  his  "  furthbringing'"  are  charged  to  the 
Scottish  Treasury.^  All  this  is  quite  consistent  with 
the  tradition  that  his  remains  were  buried  at  his 
own  request  in  the  tomb  of  his  ancestor,  Bobert  II., 
in  the  ancient  Abbey  of  Paisley,^  whither  they  must 
have  been  conveyed  all  the  way  from  Dundee. 
Here  closes  the  record  of  a  "  strange  eventful 
history" — and  as  we  part  with  this  last  of  the  line 
of  Somerled,  who  swayed  the  sceptre  of  the  Gael  in 
the  ancient  Kingdom  of  the  Isles,  we  conclude  with 
the  legend  which  seems  more  descriptive  than  any 
other  of  so  much  glory  and  so  great  a  fall,  Sic 
transit  gloria  mundi.^ 

1  "  Item  (Feb.  5,  1498),  to  Pate  Sinclair,  to  send  to  Dunde  to  pay  for 
Johuue  of  Islis  furthbringing  and  berying,  and  to  lones  his  gere,"  i.e.,  to 
settle  with  his  landlady. — The  High  Treasurer's  Accounts. 

2  Hugh  Macdonald  in  Coll.  de  Reb.  Alb.,  p.  317. 

^  Successive  historians  have  spoken  of  John  in  his  latter  years  as  the 
"  aged"  Lord  of  the  Isles  ;  but  as  he  was  only  18  when  he  succeeded  his  father 
in  1449,  he  could  only  have  been  67  at  his  death. 




State  of  the  Highlands  after  the  Forfeiture  of  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles. — James  IV.  visits  the  Highlands,  and  holds  Court  at 
Duustaffnage. — Several  Highland  Chiefs  submit  to  the  King. 
— The  King  at  Tarbert  in  Kintyre. — Left  Garrisons  at 
Tarbert  and  Duuaverty. — Revolt  of  the  Clan  Iain  Mhoir. — 
The  King  at  Mingai'ry  receives  Submission  of  many  of  the 
Highland  Chiefs. — Legislation  for  the  Isles. — Rebellion  of 
Alexander  of  Lochalsh. — The  King  grants  Charters  at  his 
new  Castle  of  Kilkerran,  in  Kintyre. — The  King  revokes 
Charters  formerly  granted  by  him  to  the  Highland  Chiefs. — 
Rebellion  of  Donald  Dubh. — Legislation  for  the  Highlands. — 
Appointment  of  Sherifts.  —The  position  of  the  different 
Brandies  of  the  Clan  Donald.—  The  Highlanders  at  Flodden. 
— First  Rebellion  of  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh. — Second  Rebellion 
of  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh. — His  Death. 

The  fall  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  consequent  on 
the  forfeiture  of  John,  resulted,  as  might  have  been 
expected,  in  much  disorder  and  bloodshed.  The 
Celtic  system,  which  had  flourished  for  centuries 
under  the  suzerainty  of  the  Scottish  State,  was 
deeply  rooted  in  the  Highlands  and  Islands,  and 
was  not  easily  supplanted  by  the  desperate  policy  of 
destroying  "  the  wicked  blood  of  the  Isles"  pursued 
by  the  King  and  his  advisers.  The  Celtic  system, 
on  the  whole,  had  worked  well,  and  suited  the  genius 
of  the  people.  This  will  become  apparent  if  we  draw 
a  parallel  between  the  state  of  the  Highlands  during 
the  period  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  and  that 
which  followed  down  to  the  abolition  of  the  Herit- 

284  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

able  Jurisdictions.  No  doubt  the  downfall  of  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles  and  the  final  overthrow  of  the 
Celtic  system  were  brought  about  entirely  by  the 
restlessness  of  and  the  short-sighted  policy  pursued 
by  the  Island  Lords  themselves,  and  considering  the 
chequered  history  of  each  successive  head  of  the 
family,  we  only  wonder  how  the  present  catastrophe 
has  been  averted  so  long.  If  John,  the  last  Lord  of 
the  Isles,  had  pursued  a  more  prudent  line  of  policy 
towards  the  Scottish  State,  the  Celtic  system  would 
undoubtedly  have  lasted  longer,  and  its  gradual 
merging  into  feudal  Scotland  would  have  averted 
much  of  the  bloodshed  and  turmoil  of  the  next 
hundred  years. 

James  IV.  set  himself  to  solve  the  difficult  and 
formidable  problem  before  him  with  much  energy 
and  perseverance.  His  policy  at  first,  though  firm, 
was  conciliatory.  He  resolved  on  visiting  the  High- 
lands, making  himself  acquainted  with  the  vassals  of 
the  Isles,  and  with  the  real  state  of  matters  in  the 
altered  circumstances  consequent  on  the  forfeiture  of 
the  Island  Lord.  On  the  18th  of  August,  1493,  we 
find  him  at  DunstafFnage,  where  he  held  Court,  and 
received  the  homage  of  several  Highland  chiefs,  and, 
among  others,  of  John  of  Dunnyveg,  John  Cathanach 
his  son,  John  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  and  Alex- 
ander of  Lochalsh.^  In  October  of  the  same  year  he 
visited  the  North  Highlands,  very  probably  not  on 
State  business,  but  on  one  of  those  frequent  pilgrim- 
ages which  he  took  to  the  shrine  of  St  Duthus  in 
Tain.^     James  was  so  desirous  of  conciliating   the 

^  At  "  DunstaSynch,"  the  King,  on  the  18th  of  August,  1493,  confirms 
John  Ogilvy  in  the  barony  of  Fingask. — Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  No.  2171. 

-  On  the  25th  of  October,  1493,  the  King  grants  a  charter,  at  the  Castle 
of  Dingwall.  Gregory  is  mistaken  in  saying  that  the  liing  held  Court  at 
Mingarry  on  tha,t  date. —  Vide  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  2181. 


Clan  Donald  vassals  that  he  knighted  Jolin  of 
Dunnyveg,  the  son  of  Donald  Balloch,  and  Alex- 
ander of  Lochalsh,  and  confirmed  them  in  their 
lands.^  The  honour  conferred  on  Alexander  of 
Lochalsh  and  the  leniency  shown  to  him  are  all  the 
more  remarkable  on  account  of  his  recent  rebellion 
against  the  King's  authority.  It  would  appear  that 
he,  and  not  Donald  Dubh,  notwithstanding  the 
charter  of  1476,  which  makes  Angus  Og  heir  to  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles,  is  of  all  the  Macdonald  chief- 
tains the  one  looked  upon  as  having  the  best  claim 
to  the  forfeited  Island  honours,  and  the  most  likely 
to  push  that  claim.  It  was,  no  doubt,  with  this  in 
view  that  the  King,  wishing  to  attach  Alexander  to 
his  interest,  conferred  upon  him  the  honour  of  knight- 
hood. The  favour  bestowed  on  the  son  of  Donald 
Balloch  was  no  less  remarkable,  in  view  of  the 
treasonable  conduct  of  both  father  and  son  in  con- 
nection with  the  Treaty  of  Ardthornish.  The  other 
Clan  Donald  vassals,  consisting  of  Allan  of  Moydart, 
John  of  Sleat,  John  Abrachson  of  Glencoe,  and 
Alister  Maclan  of  Glengarry,  had  not  yet  acknow- 
ledged the  new  order  of  things.  The  only  chieftain 
of  the  Clan  Donald  who  made  any  show  of  loyalty 
was  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  whose  allegiance  and 
services  at  this  time  and  afterwards  were  amply 
requited  at  the  expense  of  the  other  clansmen. 

Notwithstanding  the  King's  conciliatory  measures, 
the  Islanders  seem  slow  to  accept  them.  The  King 
was  perhaps  too  precipitate  in  his  legislation  for  the 
Highlands.  We  have  no  reason  to  suspect  his 
sincerity,  but  his  zeal  was  without  knowledge.  The 
Scottish  Kings  had  not  hitherto  troubled  themselves 
much   with    the  personal   oversight  of  their  Celtic 

'  Treasurer's  Accounts,  1494, 

286  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

subjects.  A  wide  gulf  separated  Highlander  and 
Lowlander,  both  socially  and  racially,  and  it  was  not 
to  be  bridged  over  by  a  few  flying  visits  by  King 
James  to  Kintyre  and  Mingarry.  These  visits 
lacked  the  sympathy  in  dealing  with  the  situation 
which  would  have  cemented  the  Highland  chiefs  to 
the  Scottish  throne.  The  policy  of  legislating  for 
the  Highlands  from  the  Lowland  point  of  view  was 
pursued,  and  as  subsequent  events  show,  it  proved 
futile,  if  not  indeed  disastrous.  The  Highland 
problem  was  one  the  solution  of  which  seemed 
entirely  beyond  the  capacity  of  the  Lowland  mind. 
Though,  as  we  have  seen,  a  few  of  the  vassals  of  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles  had  made  a  show  of  allegiance 
at  Dunstaflfnao'e,  manv  others  still  remained  unsub- 
missive.  Their  conduct  rendered  it  necessary  for 
the  King  to  again  visit  the  Highlands.  At  the 
head  of  a  strong  military  force  he  pushed  his  way 
westwards  as  far  as  Kintyre.^  The  Castle  of 
Tarbert  was  erected,  as  we  have  already  seen,  by 
Robert  Bruce  to  check  the  power  of  the  Island 
Lords.  Here  the  King,  with  the  view  of  strength- 
ening the  defences  of  the  important  peninsula  of 
Kintyre,  left  a  strong  garrison.  He  also  took 
possession,  apparently  without  any  opposition,  of 
the  Castle  of  Dunaverty,  a  stronghold  of  the 
Macdonalds,  in  South  Kintyre,  which,  situated  on 
the  top  of  a  tremendous  precipice,  nature,  assisted 
by  art,  rendered  impregnable.  Having  made 
Dunaverty  secure,  as  he  thought,  against  any 
possible  assault,  the  King  returned  South  by  sea. 
What  success  attended  his  visit  to  the  Highlands 
in  the  way  of  receiving  the  submission  of  those 
chiefs  who  had  hitherto  held  aloof  we  have  no  means 

^  Treasurer's  Accouuts  for  1494. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  287 

of  knowing,  though  it  would  appear  from  after 
events  that  the  success  of  his  expedition  in  this 
respect  fell  far  short  of  his  expectations.  He  had 
already  so  far  conciliated  the  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  by 
confirming  them  in  at  least  the  principal  lands 
which  they  held  under  the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  that 
opposition  on  their  part  was  not  looked  for.  The 
King,  however,  had  taken  the  precaution  in  case  of 
revolt  to  place  the  district  of  Kintyre  under  mili- 
tary surveillance.  By  this  bold  stroke  of  policy  he 
expected  to  overawe  the  men  of  Argyle,  but  he  soon 
found  out  his  mistake.  Though  the  district  of 
Kintyre  was  resigned  by  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in 
1476,  many  of  the  same  lands  were  afterwards 
restored  to  him  in  1481,  and  whether  the  lands 
possessed  by  the  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  were  in  any  way 
affected  either  by  the  forfeiture  of  1476,  or  the 
restoration  of  1481,  there  seems  every  reason  to 
believe  that  the  family  were  in  possession  of  almost 
the  whole  lordship  of  Kintyre  in  1494.  It  was 
not,  therefore,  we  think,  the  loss  of  their  lands  in 
Kintyre,  as  suggested  by  Gregory,  that  roused  this 
family  into  opposition  to  the  King's  policy  ;  it  was 
rather  the  presence  of  a  military  force  in  their  midst 
that  the  proud  spirited  Lords  of  Dunnyveg  could 
not  brook.  The  King  had  barely  gone  on  board  the 
ship  that  was  to  carry  him  back  to  Dumbarton, 
when  Sir  John  of  Dunnyveg,  assisted  by  his  son, 
John  Cathanach,  besieged  Dunaverty.  After  a 
stout  resistance  on  the  part  of  the  Lowlanders,  Sir 
John  and  the  men  of  Kintyre  took  possession  of  the 
Castle,  and  hanged  the  King's  governor  over  the 
precipitous  rock  on  which  that  stronghold  stood. 
The  King,  who  from  the  deck  of  his  ship  witnessed 
this  horrible  deed,  vowed  vengeance,  as  might  have 

288  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

been  expected,  on  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg,  who 
by  and  by  was  made  to  pay  the  penalty  of  his 

It  may  be  as  well  at  this  stage  to  refer  to  the 
confusion  which  seems  to  exist  with  reference  to  the 
family  of  Dunnyveg  and  the  part  played  by  the 
different  members  of  that  family  in  the  history  of 
this  time.  It  has  generally  been  believed  that  the 
rebel  who  defied  the  King  in  Kintyre  was  John 
Cathanach,  while  his  father,  John,  the  son  of 
Donald  Balloch,  has  been  entirely  dropped  out  of  the 
history  of  the  family.  No  doubt  John  Cathanach 
played  a  conspicuous  part  in  the  history  of  those 
stirring  times.  He  had  been  fostered  with  the 
O'Cathans,  his  mother's  kin,  in  Ireland,  where  love 
to  the  Saxon  was  not,  we  may  be  sure,  one  of  the 
graces  with  which  his  young  mind  was  imbued. 
In  any  case,  John's  character  was  intensely  Celtic, 
and  he  bore  no  love  to  his  Saxon  neisfhbours.  Some 
have  asserted  that  John,  the  father  of  John  Cath- 
anach, died  before  his  own  father,  Donald  Balloch. 
We  find  Donald  Balloch  witnessing  at  Isla  a  charter 
of  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  on  the  20th  of  August, 
1476,  and-a.s  we  hear  no  more  of  him,  and  being  a 
very  old  man,  he  probably  died  shortly  after  that 
event. ^  At  all  events,  as  we  shall  soon  see,  his  son 
John,  and  his  grandson,  John  Cathanach,  perished 
together  for  the  part  they  took  in  the  affair  of 
Dunaverty.  That  the  John  who  was  knighted  by 
the  King  shortly  before  this  time  was  not  John 
Cathanach,  but  his  father,  is  proved  beyond  any 
manner  of  doubt  by  the  royal  charter  of  lands  in 
Isla  granted  to  John  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan  for 
apprehending    "  Johannes   de    Insulis    de    Glennys 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  No.  1277. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMICS    IV.  289 

militis,  Johannes  Caynoch,  ejus  filii,  et  complicum 
suorum."^  The  King,  immediately  on  his  return 
South,  sent  a  messenger  to  Kintyre  to  summon  Sir 
John  of  the  Isles  for  treason,  which  no  doubt  refers 
to  his  conduct  at  Dunaverty.^  Sir  John  ignored 
the  summons,  but  the  King  employed  other  and 
more  effective  means  of  apprehending  the  rebel. 
Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  as  we  have  seen,  is 
already  in  high  favour  with  his  sovereign.  There 
had  been  a  dispute  between  him  and  Sir  John  of 
Dunnyveg  over  the  lands  of  Suanart,  and  therefore 
no  love  was  lost  between  the  clansmen.  Maclan 
had  besides  married  a  daughter  of  the  Earl  of 
Argyle,  and  through  this  matrimonial  alliance  had 
become  a  tool  in  the  hands  of  that  crafty  nobleman, 
which  he  was  not  slow  to  use  against  the  Clan 
Donald.  Instigated  by  Argyle,  Maclan  treacher- 
ously apprehended  at  Finlaggan,  in  Isla,  in  the  end 
of  the  year  14  94,  "  Sir  John  of  the  Isles  and  Glens, 
John  Cathanach  his  son,  and  their  accomplices," 
and  brought  them  to  Edinburgh,  where,  after  being 
convicted  of  high  treason,  they  were  all  hanged  on 
the  Boroughmuir,  and  their  bodies  were  buried  in 
the  Church  of  St  Francis,  then  called  the  New 
Church.^  The  exact  date  of  the  execution  of  Sir 
John  of  Dunnyveg,  and  his  son  John  Cathanach,  is 
not  given  by  any  authority,  but  it  may  be  taken  for 
gr-anted  that  it  took  place  shortly  after  they  were 
apprehended,  and,  therefore,  about  the  beginning  of 

1  Argyll  Charter  Chest.  The  Charter  is  dated  29th  March,  1499,  and  is 
given  in  full  in  "  The  Book  of  Islay,"  pp.  28-30. 

^  In  the  Treasurer's  Accounts  for  the  year  1494,  the  sum  of  £6  13s  4d  is 
charged  as  having  been  paid  to  a  messenger  "  to  passe  to  summond  Sir  John 
of  the  Ills  of  treasone  in  Kintyre  and  the  expensis  of  the  witnes." — Pitcairn, 
vol.  I.,  p.  116. 

^  MacVuirich  in  Reliq.  Celt.,  p.  163. 


290  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  year  1495.  According  to  Gregory,  four  sons  of* 
John  Cathanach  were  executed  with  their  father  on 
the  Boroughmuir,  but  the  references  he  gives  are 
the  Charter  of  1499,  ah^eady  quoted,  MacVuirich, 
and  Hugh  Macdonald.  In  the  charter  there  is  no 
reference  to  any  son  of  John  Cathanach,  while 
MacVuirich  has  it  that  three  sons  of  John  Cathanach 
were  executed,  namely,  John  Mor,  John  Og,  and 
Donald  Balloch.^  Hugh  Macdonald,  in  his  MS., 
printed  in  the  Collectanea  de  Bebus  Albanicis,  says 
that  "  Alexander  of  Kintyre  and  his  two  sons,  one 
of  whom  was  called  John  Cathanach,  were  by  the 
Kinof's  orders  hansfed  at  the  Borrowmuir,  near 
Edinburgh,  because  after  the  resignation  of  John  of 
the  Isles  they  neither  would  take  their  rights  from 
the  King  nor  deliver  up  to  him  those  lands  which 
Macdonald  had  in  Isla  and  Kintyre."^  In  the 
portion  of  his  manuscript  still  unpublished,  Hugh 
Macdonald,  referring  to  John  Cathanach,  says  that 
at  the  instigation  of  Argyle  and  Glencairn,  Mac- 
Ian  of  Ardnamurchan  apprehended  him  and  his 
two  sons,  John  Galld  and  John  Gallach,  and 
brought  them  to  Edinburgh.  Thus  we  see  how 
Hugh  Macdonald  contradicts  himself  as  well  as 
MacVuirich,  while  Gregory,  so  persistently  and 
slavishly  copied  by  all  who  have  come  after  him, 
misquotes  both  Hugh  Macdonald  and  MacVuirich, 
as  well  as  the  Charter  of  1499.  In  that  charter  it 
is  stated  very  clearly  that  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan 
is  rewarded  for  apprehending  "  John  of  the  Isles  and 
Glens,  Knight,  John  Cathanach,  his  son,  and  their 
accomplices."  We  have  no  hesitation  in  accepting 
the  authority  of  the  charter  and  refusing  to  accept 

^  MacVuirich  in  Reliq.  Celt.,  p.  163. 
2  Hugh  Macdonald  in  Coll.  de  Rebus  Alb.,  p.  324. 


statements  so  confusing  and  contradictory  as  those 
of  Hugh  Macdonald  and  MacVuirich. 

All  the  sons  of  John  Cathanach,  as  well  as  Alex- 
ander and  Angus  Ileach,  would  have  found  refuge 
from  the  Koyal  vengeance  and  the  persecution  of 
Maclan  in  the  Antrim  Glens.  According  to  Mac- 
Vuirich, Maclan  destroyed  nearly  the  whole  race  of 
John  Mor.  He  pursued  Alexander,  the  son  of  John 
Cathanach,  to  the  Glens  of  Antrim,  which  evidently 
at  that  time  were  thickly  wooded,  for  Maclan 
expended  much  wealth  in  making  axes  to  cut  down 
the  trees,  so  that  the  Lord  of  the  Glens  and  his 
followers  would  have  no  hiding  place  within  their 
ov/n  territory.^  Maclan,  however,  notwithstanding 
all  the  gold  and  silver  spent  by  him  on  instruments 
of  destruction,  did  not  succeed  in  driving  Alexander, 
the  son  of  John  Cathanach,  out  of  the  Antrim  Glens. 
Though  banished  from  Scotland,  the  Clan  Iain 
Mhoir  held  considerable  sway  in  Ireland,  and  were 
able  to  check  the  progress  of  the  English  invaders 
through  Northern  Ulster.  It  is  almost  certain 
that  none  of  them  ventured  to  return  to  Scotland 
durinof  the  lifetime  of  James  IV. 

After  the  episode  of  Dunaverty,  the  King  paid 
several  visits  to  the  Highlands  in  close  succession. 
Many  of  the  chiefs  still  held  out,  but  James  was 
determined  to  bring  them  to  subjection.  Besides 
the  Castles  of  Tarbert  and  Dunaverty,  which  he  had 
already  garrisoned,  he  also  placed  strong  garrisons 
in  Mingarry,  and  Cairnburgh,^  in  Mull,  and  having 
secured  these,  which  were  the  most  important 
defences  in  Argyleshire,  he  set  about  making  pre- 
parations for  a  military  exjiedition  on  a  large  scale. 

^  MacVuirich  in  Reliq.  Celt,,  p.  165. 
"  Treasurer's  Accounts  for  the  year  1494, 

292  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

About  midsummer,  1495,  he  left  Glasgow  at  the 
head  of  a  strong  force,  and  marched  to  Dumbarton.^ 
At  Dumbarton  he  embarked  his  troops,  and  pro- 
ceeded by  the  Mull  of  Kin  tyre  to  Mingarry,  in 
Ardnamurchan,  where  he  held  Court.^  Awed  by 
the  presence  of  so  formidable  an  armament  in  the 
Western  seas,  many  of  the  chiefs  hastened  to  Min- 
garry and  paid  homage  to  the  King,  among  whom 
were  Allan  of  Clanranald,  John  of  Sleat,  and  Donald 
of  Keppoch.  Maclan  had  already  shewn  much  zeal 
in  the  King's  service,  and  had  recently  been  rewarded 
by  a  gi-ant  of  lands  in  Isla.^  Thus  all  the  Macdonald 
vassals  within  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  with  the 
exception  of  Macdonald  of  Glencoe  and  the  banished 
Macdonald  of  Dunnyveg,  submitted  to  the  King, 
and  the  aspect  of  affairs  augured  well  for  the  future 
government  of  the  Southern  Highlands  at  least. 

The  King  went  back  to  Edinburgh  quite  elated 
at  the  success  of  his  efforts,  and  to  ensure  the  success 
of  his  policy  he  called  a  meeting  of  his  Council,  and 
submitted  to  them  measures  for  the  better  govern- 
ment of  the  Isles.  The  Council  passed  an  Act  which, 
in  the  present  unsettled  state  of  the  Islands,  if 
carried  out,  could  hardly  fail  to  be  productive  of 
good  fruit.  This  Act  provided  that  every  chief  must 
be  answerable  for  the  serving  of  summonses  and 
other  writs  against  his  own  clansmen,  under  the 
penalty  of  being  himself  liable  to  the  party  bringing 
the  action. "*  As  a  result  of  these  proceedings,  several 
chiefs  appeared  before   the    Council  in  Edinburgh, 

'  Treasurer's  Accounts  for  the  year  1495. 

-  "  At  Meware  iu  Ardmurquhaue  the  King  granted  a  charter  on  the  18th 
May,  1495,  to  Sir  WiUiam  Stirling  of  Ker."— Reg.  of  Great  Seal,  vol.  II.,  No. 

^  Reg.  of  Great  Seal,  14th  June,  1494,  vol.  II.,  No.  2216. 

■»  Acta  Dom.  Con.  VIII.,  folio  39. 

TFIE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDEE   JAMES    IV.  293 

among  whom  were  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  Clan- 
ranald,  and  Keppoch,  and  bound  themselves  by  a 
bond  of  £500  each  to  refrain  from  injuring  one 
another/  What  effect  this  Act  had  on  those  whom 
it  concerned,  we  know  not,  but  it  manifests,  at  all 
events,  the  earnest  desire  of  the  King  to  bring  about 
peace  and  good  government  in  the  Isles. 

The  state  of  matters  in  the  North  Highlands  did 
not  render  it  necessary  for  the  King  to  devote  so 
much  attention  to  that  region.  We  find  hini  indeed 
often  visiting  the  North  during  those  years,  but 
always  in  a  ver}'-  different  capacity  from  that  in 
which  we  find  him  in  Argyleshire.  The  great  object 
of  the  King's  visits  was  the  shrine  of  St  Duthus  in 
Tain,  which,  in  James's  eyes  at  least,  had  a  peculiar 
sanctity.  His  father  had  endowed  the  Church  of 
St  Duthus,  and  the  King  almost  yearly  went  to 
Tain  to  worship  at  the  sacred  shrine.  Interesting 
glimpses  may  be  gathered  from  the  Treasurer's 
Accounts  of  the  King's  visits  to  Hoss-shire.  On  one 
occasion  we  find  him  at  Dingwall,  after  his  devotions 
in  Tain,  evidently  bent  on  devoting  his  time  more 
to  the  pursuit  of  pleasure  than  to  the  exercises 
of  piety.  The  Treasurer  charges  to  tlie  Scottish 
Exchequer  the  sum  of  ten  shillings  and  six- 
pence given  to  the  King  "for  playing  at  tho 
cartis,"  while  one  shilling  and  sixpence  is  paid  to 
the  "  maddins"  that  sang  l)efore  His  Majesty.  Tlie 
neighbouring  magnates  send  presents  to  the  King. 
Lord  Lovat  sends  "  ane  hert  and  ane  ram,"  the 
Bishop  of  Eoss  "  ane  selch  and  oysteris,"  while 
another  sends  "  ane  flacat  of  aqua  vite."  Twenty 
years  have  now  elapsed  since  the  Lord  of  the  Isles 
resigned  the  Earldom  of  Ross,  but  the  vassals  of  the 

^  Acta  Dominorum  Concilii,  VIII.,  fol.  39. 

294  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Earldom  were  not  in  any  way  affected  by  the  final 
forfeiture  of  that  nobleman  and  the  fall  of  the  Icland 
Lordship.  With  very  few  exceptions,  the  vassals  of 
Koss  never  were  very  sincere  in  their  attachment  to 
the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  while,  on  the  contrary,  the 
vassals  of  the  Isles  had  always  been  loyal,  and  when 
therefore  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  came  to  an  end 
through  the  forfeiture  of  John  in  1493,  the  result 
was  open  rebellion  on  the  part  of  the  Islesmen 
against  the  Scottish  State.  We  have  seen  that 
Alexander  of  Lochalsh  was  not  among  the  Mac- 
donald  chieftains  who  paid  homage  to  the  King 
at  Mingarry  Mackenzie  of  Kintail,  a  vassal  of 
Koss,  and  Mackintosh,  one  of  the  vassals  of 
the  Isles,  were  at  this  time  thrown  into  prison 
in  Edinburgh.  Mackenzie,  though  nearly  related 
by  marriage  to  the  Island  family,  was  very  pro- 
bably convicted  for  the  excesses  committed  by  him 
after  the  Lochalsh  rebellion  of  1491,  and  not  for  any 
help  he  had  given,  or  was  likely  to  give,  to  the 
rebels  of  the  Isles.  His  family,  on  the  contrary,  had 
all  along  opposed  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  in  Ross- 
shire.  The  case  of  Mackintosh  was  entirely  different. 
Besides  his  close  blood  relationship  to  the  Lords  of 
the  Isles,  his  family  had  been  greatly  enriched  by 
them  with  grants  of  lands  in  Lochaber.  It  is  likely 
enough,  therefore,  that  his  imprisonment  at  this 
time  was  the  result  of  his  opposition  to  the  new 
order  of  thinofs  both  in  Ross  and  in  the  Isles. 
Though  the  northern  portion  of  the  Highlands  was 
thus  meanwhile  in  a  comparatively  quiet  state,  it  was 
not  destined  to  remain  so  for  any  length  of  time, 
Alexander  of  Lochalsh,  notwithstanding  the  favours 
bestowed  upon  him  by  the  King,  ventured  once  more 
into  the  arena  of  rebellion.  His  motives  in  raising 
again  the  flag  of  revolt  are  not  far  to  seek.    His  former 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  295 

rebellion  undoubtedly  brought  about  the  final  for- 
feiture of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  and  he  perhaps 
thought  the  present  a  favourable  opportunity  to 
strike  a  blow  for  the  restoration  of  the  family 
honours  in  his  own  person.  The  King  had  of  late 
paid  little  attention  to  Highland  politxs,  his 
Majesty's  time  being  absorbed  by  English  intrigue, 
and  that  foreign  impostor,  Perkin  Warbeck.  It  is 
not  at  all  likely  that  Lochalsh  had  the  Earldom  of 
Ross  in  view,  though,  according  to  Hugh  Macdonald, 
he  put  forward  a  claim  as  tutor  for  Donald  Dubh. 
It  appears  that  the  King  himself  looked  upon  Alex- 
ander as  the  nearest  heir  to  the  forfeited  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  for  he  received  a  promise  from  His  Majesty 
that  the  tenants  of  the  Lordship  would  have  security 
in  their  holdings.^  It  is  hardly  conceivable  that  with 
so  small  a  following  Lochalsh  could  have  had  the 
presumption  to  attempt  the  restoration  of  the  Island 
Lordship  in  his  own  person.  This,  however,  and 
nothing  less,  was  the  goal  which  he  had  set  before 
himself,  and  he  no  doubt  expected  that  the  vassals 
would  all  in  time  join  his  standard.  He  opened  his 
campaign  by  making  a  descent  on  his  Ross-shire 
neighbours,  in  revenge  for  his  defeat  at  Pai  k.  After 
ravaging  several  districts  with  fire  and  sword,  he 
was  at  length  met  at  Drumchatt  by  the  Muniois 
and  Mackenzies,  and,  according  to  the  historian  of 
the  Sutherland  Family,  was  there  defeated  with 
great  slaughter.^  Alexander  now  betook  himself  to 
the  Isles,  and  went  south  as  far  as  Colonsay,  with 
the  view,  according  to  Hugh  Macdonald,  of  raising 
more  men  to  recover  his  lands  in  Ross,^  but  more 
probably  with  the  object  of  creating  a  rebellion  for 

1   Vide  Charter  to  I^uald  MacAUan  oi  C'.aniaiuild  in  KugisLer  of  Great 
Seal,  vol.  II.,  No.  2438. 

-  Gordou'd  Family  of  Sutherlaud,  p.  77. 

*  Hugh  Macdonald,  iu  Coll.  de  Kebus  Alb.,  p.  321. 

296  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  purpose  of  recovering  the  Island  Lordship.  In 
this,  however,  he  was  not  successful.  The  strong 
defensive  measures  taken  by  the  King  had  had  their 
effect  on  the  Islesmen,  and  they  were  not  prepared, 
however  much  they  wished  it,  to  join  in  an  insur- 
rection against  the  Scottish  Government.  Alex- 
ander of  Lochalsh  had  barely  time  to  mature  his 
plans,  whatever  these  may  have  been,  for  he  perished 
by  the  hands  of  the  assassin,  at  Orinsay,  very  soon 
after  his  arrival  at  Colonsay.  The  foul  deed  was 
perpetrated  by  his  own  kinsman,  Maclan  of  Ardna- 
murchan,  either  to  please  the  King,  or  Argyle,  or 
both.  According  to  the  seanachies  of  Sleat  and 
Clanranald,  Maclan  had  as  his  accomplice  on  this 
occasion  Alexander,  the  son  of  John  Cathanach,^  but 
that  hero,  as  we  have  seen,  took  refuge  in  Ireland 
after  the  execution  of  his  father  and  grandfather  in 
1495,  and  as  he  did  not  venture  to  set  foot  on 
Scottish  soil  again  for  many  years  after  the  murder 
of  Alexander  of  Lochalsh,  he  cannot  have  been 
guilty  of  the  serious  crime  alleged  against  him. 

The  King  after  a  short  interval  again  devoted 
his  attention  to  the  South  Highlands.  Not 
regarding  the  two  fortresses  of  Tarbert  and 
Dunaverty  as  affording  sufficient  protection  to  his 
lieges  in  Kintyre,  he  built  another  stronghold  at 
Kilkerran.  In  the  summer  of  1498  he  visited 
Kintyre,  and  held  court  at  Kilkerran,  where  several 
chiefs  came  to  meet  him  and  renew  their  allegiance. 
Here  the  King  granted  several  charters,  the  first  of 
which  is  dated  on  the  30th  of  June,  while  the  last  is 
dated  on  the  5th  of  August,  which  indicates  a  long 
stay  on  this  occasion  at  his  new  Castle  of  Kilkerran.^ 

1  H.  Macdonald,  in  Coll.  de  Kebus  Alb.,  i^.  321.  MacVuirich,  in  Reliq. 
Celt,  p.  165. 

-  Register  of  the  Great  Seal,  vul.  II.,  pp.  olo-18. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  297 

Part  of  that  time  at  least  was  devoted  to  the 
setthng  of  disputes  between  the  Clanranald  and 
Clan  Uisdean  on  the  one  hand,  and  the  Clan 
Uisdean  and  the  Macleods  of  Dunvegan  on  the 
other.  On  the  3rd  of  August  the  King  granted  a 
charter  of  lands  in  Uist  to  Ranald  MacAllan  for 
services  rendered  by  him  in  time  of  peace,  and  again 
on  the  5th  of  the  same  month  other  lands  in  Uist, 
Eigg,  and  Arisaig  are  granted  to  him.^  In  the 
latter  charter  the  King  confirms  to  Ranald  the 
lands  resigned  in  his  favour  by  John,  the  son  and 
heir  of  Hugh  of  Sleat.  The  Clanranald  family, 
however,  never  obtained  possession  of  the  lands  in 
Skye  and  North  Uist,  formerly  held  by  Hugh  of 
Sleat.  The  King  also  on  the  5th  of  August  granted 
a  charter  of  lands  in  Benbecula  in  Uist,  in  Moror, 
and  in  Arisaig,  to  Angus  Reochson  MacRanald,  all 
of  which  formerly  belonged  to  Hugh  of  Sleat. ^  At 
the  same  time  the  lands  of  Troternisli,  with  the 
bailliary  of  that  district,  were  granted  to  Torquil 
Macleod  of  Lewis  and  his  heirs  by  Catherine, 
daughter  of  Archibald,  Earl  of  Argyle.^  Here  it  is 
evident  "we  have  material  for  family  feuds  for  many 
a  long  year  to  come. 

The  King  had  no  sooner  returned  from  his  long 
sojourn  in  Kintyre  than  he  revoked  the  charters 
recently  granted  by  him,  as  well  as  all  others 
which  he  had  formerly  granted  to  the  vassals 
of  the  Isles.  What  induced  him  to  change  his 
policy  so  suddenly,  in  view  of  its  apparent 
success,  is  not  at  first  sight  easily  understood. 
We  are  not  long,  however,  left  in  any  doubt 
as  to  the  real    cause   of  this   sudden    turn   in   the 

i  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  No.  2437  and  2i38. 
-  Ibidem,  No.  2349.     ^  Ibidem,  No,  1424. 

^98  tMe    clan    DONALD. 

tide  of  affairs.  The  King  early  next  year  visits 
Kintyre  to  initiate  his  new  policy.  He  grants  a 
commission  of  lieutenandry  to  Archibald,  Earl  of 
Argyle,  over  the  whole  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  and 
appoints  him  Keeper  of  the  Castle  of  Tarbert  and 
Bailie  of  Knapdale.  He  also  gave  the  Earl  a  com- 
mission to  let  on  lease  for  three  years  the  whole 
Lordship  of  the  Isles,  except  Kintyre  and  Isla.^ 
Thus  it  is  only  too  evident  who  had  induced  the 
King  to  change  his  plans  in  regard  to  the  Govern- 
ment of  the  Isles.  The  crafty  Argyle  succeeded  in 
persuading  the  evidently  too  impressionable  James 
that  he  had  acted  far  too  leniently  towards  the  men 
of  the  Isles,  and  that  a  less  conciliatory  policy  would 
in  the  long  run  prove  the  wisest.  The  King's 
conduct  in  breaking  faith  with  the  Islanders  and 
yielding  to  the  evil  counsel  of  the  wily  schemer 
cannot  be  too  severely  condemned.  It  was  conduct 
altogether  unworthy  of  a  King,  and  such  as  to  make 
us  suspect  the  genuineness  of  his  motives  in  every 
previous  effort  made  by  him  to  legislate  for  the 
Islands.  Argyle  succeeded  in  attaining  the  object 
of  his  ambition,  but  not,  as  we  shall  soon  see,  in 
making  the  Islanders  more  law  abiding,  or  more 
loyal  to  the  throne.  His  administration  had,  on 
the  contrary,  the  very  opposite  effect.  It  seems 
that  the  King,  no  doubt  at  the  instigation  of 
Argyle,  had  resolved  to  expel  the  Macdonald  land- 
holders from  their  possessions,  as  well  as  other 
vassals  who  were  supposed  to  be  favourable  to  the 
claims  of  Donald  Dubh,  and  others,  to  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles.  As  long  as  any  claimant  to  the  forfeited 
Island  honours  remained  there  was  danger  of  an  insur- 
rection in  the  Islands,  and  the  King  had  evidently 

^  Register  of  the  Privy  Seal,  Book  I.,  folio  3  ;  also  fol.  108,  122. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  299 

come  to  the  conclusion  that  the  only  cure  for  these 
disaffected  Islanders  was  expulsion  from  their 
possessions.  This  proved,  however,  a  difficult  task, 
but  James  was  determined  to  give  effect  to  his  new 
scheme.  To  strengthen  his  government  in  the 
Highlands,  he  began  to  parcel  out  the  lands  of  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles  among  his  own  favourites. 
To  John  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  presumably 
"  for  his  good  and  faithful  service  done  and  to  be 
done"  to  the  King,  and  "  for  the  taking,  trans- 
porting, and  handing  over  to  him  of  the  rebels,  John 
of  the  Isles  and  Glens,  John  Cathanach,  his  son, 
and  their  accomplices,"  a  charter  was  granted  of 
many  lands  in  Isla  and  Jura.^  To  Stewart  of  Appin 
the  King  granted  a  charter  of  the  lands  of  Glencoe 
and  Duror  f  while  Lord  Gordon,  the  eldest  son  of 
Huntly,  received  a  charter  of  many  lands  in 
Lochaber.^  The  first  step  taken  in  the  process  of 
expelling  the  vassals  of  the  Isles  was  to  summon 
them  before  the  Lords  of  Council  for  not  having 
charters  for  their  lands,  but,  as  might  have 
been  expected,  none  appeared  in  response  to  the 
summons,  and  decree  accordingly  was  pronounced 
against  them.*  This  was  the  signal  for  rebellion. 
Donald  Dubh,  who  had  been  kept  in  custody  ever 
since  he  was  a  child,  was  looked  upon  by  the 
Islanders  as  the  heir  to  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles. 
It  was  also  well  known  to  the  Government,  though 
for  political  reasons  it  was  not  acknowledged,  that 
Donald  was  the  lawful  son  of  Angus  Og,  who,  by 
an  Act  of  Parliament  in  1476,  was  declared  heir 
to  his  father,  John,  Lord  of  the  Isles. 

1  "  The  Book  of  Islay,"  pp.  28-30. 
"  Register  of  the  Privy  Seal,  Book  T.,  fol.  99. 
^  Register  of  the  Great  Seal,  vol,  II.,  No.  2259. 
■*  Acta  Com.  Con.  XI.,  folio  13. 

300  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

The  Islanders  were  now  compelled  by  the  harsh 
measures  adopted  against  them  to  take  steps  to 
defend  their  territories,  and  they  naturally  turned 
to  Donald  Dubh  as  their  legitimate  leader.  Means 
were  taken  secretly  to  effect  Donald's  escape  from 
Inchconnel,  where  he  was  kept  a  close  prisoner  by 
his  maternal  grandfather,  the  Earl  of  Argyle.  This 
was  accomplished,  evidently  without  much  difficulty, 
by  the  men  of  Glencoe,  who,  by  what  MacVuirich 
calls  "  a  fenian  exploit,"  broke  into  his  dungeon  and 
released  the  heir  of  Innsegall.^  Donald  had  no 
sooner  been  set  free  than  he  betook  himself  to  the 
Isles.  He  was  loyally  received  by  the  vassals, 
and  was  forthwith  proclaimed  Lord  of  the  Isles. 
Torquil  Macleod  of  Lewis,  who  was  one  of 
the  most  powerful  of  the  vassals  of  the  Isles, 
was  the  first  to  join  the  standard  of  the 
newly  proclaimed  Island  Lord,  and  being  closely 
related  to  him  by  marriage,  he  took  Donald 
meanwhile  under  his  protection  in  his  Castle  of 
Stornoway.  The  Macdonald  standard  was  now  once 
more  set  up  in  the  Isles,  and  the  old  vassals,  with 
very  few  exceptions,  made  haste  to  join  it.  The 
Macleans,  the  Camerons,  the  Mackinnons,  the  Mac- 
leods,  the  Macneills,  the  Macquarries,  and  others, 
were  all  ready  to  strike  a  blow  for  the  fatherland 
and  the  heir  of  the  House  of  Isla,  The  rebellion 
very  soon  assumed  a  formidable  appearance,  and  the 
Islanders,  being  determined  to  restore  the  old  Celtic 
order  of  things,  sought  the  assistance  of  both  England 
and  Ireland.  This  we  learn  from  the  proceedings  of 
the  Parliament  which  met  in  1503,  but  there  is  no 
evidence  of  the  assistance  sought  having  ever  been 
rendered,  and  it  may  have  been,  after  all,  nothing 
more  than  mere  suspicion  on  the  part  of  the  Scottish 

'■  MacVuirich,  in  Reliq.  Celt.,  p.  168. 


Government.^  What  defences  the  Islanders  made 
against  a  Lowland  invasion,  or  whether  they  waited 
to  be  attacked  in  the  Isles,  we  have  no  means  of 
knowing,  for  very  meagre  details  of  this  insurrection 
have  been  preserved.  It  is  very  probable,  however, 
that  the  Islanders  were  themselves  the  aggressors, 
and  that  they  did  not  wait  to  be  attacked.  As 
evidence  of  this,  we  learn  from  the  proceedings 
of  the  Parliament  which  met  in  1505  that  the 
Islanders,  under  Donald  Dubh,  invaded  the  main- 
land hi  1503  and  advanced  to  Badenoch,  which  they 
wasted  with  fire  and  sword.'  At  the  same  meeting 
of  Parliament  a  letter  was  read  from  John  Ogilvy, 
Deputy  Sheriff  of  Inverness,  setting  forth  that  he 
had  been  unable  to  apprehend  Torquil  Macleod, 
summoned  for  assistance  given  to  "  Donald  Yla 
bastard  sone  of  umquhile  Anguss  of  ye  His  alsua 
bastard  sone  of  umquhile  Johne  lord  of  ye  His,"  and 
for  insurrection,  and  taking  part  in  invading  the 
King's  lieges  in  "  maner  of  batell."  It  appears  from 
Ogilvy's  letter  that  Donald  Dubh  was  proclaimed 
not  only  Lord  but  King  of  the  Isles,  and  that  his 
ambition  was  to  set  up  a  Celtic  Kingdom  altogether 
independent  of  Saxon  Scotland.^  The  letter  also 
refers  to  the  depredations  committed  by  the  Islanders 
on  the  King's  lieges  on  the  mainland,  and  it  would 
appear  from  the  whole  tone  of  it  that  the  rebels  had 
ravaged  the  country  to  a  considerable  extent  before 
their  progress  was  stopped  by  the  Royal  forces. 

The  King,  who  was  fully  aware  of  the  movements 
of  the  Islanders,  recognised  the  magnitude  of  the 
revolt  against  his  authority,  and  without  delay  took 
the  strongest  measures  to  quell  the  rebellion.     He 

^  Acta  of  the  Parliament  of  Scotland,  vol.  IL,  p.  240. 
2  Ibidem,  p.  263.  ^  Ibidem,  263-4. 

302  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

now  probably  saw  the  folly  of  his  harsh  proceedings 
in  the  Isles  and  the  policy  inspired  by  Argyle.  A 
meeting  of  Parliament  was  summoned  to  consider 
the  situation  in  the  Highlands,  and  elaborate 
preparations  were  made  to  bring  the  unruly  inhabi- 
tants into  subjection.  Torquil  Macleod  of  Lewis, 
the  leader  of  the  vassals  in  the  Isles,  was  declared 
rebel,  and  all  his  lands  in  the  Isles  and  on  the 
Mainland  were  forfeited  to  the  Crown.  ^  Efforts 
were  made  at  the  same  time  to  win  over  the  other 
Island  leaders,  but  in  vain.  In  these  circumstances, 
the  King  fell  back  on  his  original  policy  of  expelling 
"  the  broken  men,"  or,  in  other  words,  all  the 
rebellious  vassals  of  the  Isles  and  their  adherents. 
For  the  carrying  out  of  this  measure,  commissions 
were  given  to  the  Earl  of  Huntly,  Lord  Lovat, 
and  Munro  of  Fowlis,  but  no  success  attended  their 
eiforts,  whatever  these  may  have  been,  and  the  tide 
of  rebellion  still  rolled  on  with  great  fury.  At  length 
the  Government  adopted  still  stronger  measures. 
It  was  resolved  to  proceed  against  the  rebels  both 
by  sea  and  land,  and  an  effort  was  made  once  more 
to  secure  the  services  of  some  of  the  rebel  chiefs  by 
offering  them  large  bribes,  with  the  alternative  of 
the  pains  and  penalties  of  treason.  Lachlan  Maclean 
of  Do  wart  had  been  already  forfeited  and  declared 
traitor  for  "  maintaining,  fortifying,  and  supplying 
of  Donald,  bastard  and  unlauchtfull  sone  of  Anguss 
of  the  Ylis,  bastard  son  to  umquhile  Johne  of  the 
Ilis."^  Ewen  Allanson  of  Lochiel  had  also  been 
declared  traitor  for  intercepting  the  King's  letters, 
and  the  "  withhaldin  of  his  messingers  and  berars  of 
ye  said  letrez  in  presone."^     The  Government  ordered 

^  Acta  Dominorum  Concilii,  Book  XII.,  p.  123. 
2  Acts  of  Pari.,  vol.  II.,  p.  247.  ^  ibidem,  p.  248, 

TtlE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  303 

letters  to  be  sent  to  Maclan,  Maclean  of  Lochbuy, 
Macleod  of  Dunvegan,  Ranald  Allanson  of  Clan- 
ranald,  MacNeill  of  Barra,  Mackinnon,  Macquarrie, 
and  Torquil  Macleod,  informing  them  of  the  forfeiture 
of  Laclilan  Maclean  of  Dowart  and  Ewin  Allanson 
of  Lochiel  for  usurping  the  King's  authority  and 
offering  them,  if  they  should  assist  in  bringing  these 
rebels  to  justice,  grants  of  half  their  forfeited  lands  ; 
while  in  the  event  of  their  refusing  to  give  this 
assistance,  they  shall  be  "  reputt  art  and  part  takars 
with  thaim  and  be  accusit  and  followit  on  tresonne."^ 
The  Earl  of  Huntly  undertook  to  deliver  the  letters 
of  Ranald  Allanson  and  Mackinnon,  Argyle  those  of 
Maclan  and  Maclean  of  Lochbuy,  while  to  the  Bishop 
of  Boss  was  entrusted  the  hazardous  task  of 
delivering  the  letter  of  Torquil  Macleod  of  Lewis.  ^ 
It  is  somewhat  surprising  to  find  the  name  of 
Torquil  Macleod,  so  recently  declared  traitor, 
amongst  those  to  whom  overtures  were  made  on 
this  occasion  by  Government.  His  name  was 
included  probably  on  the  suggestion  of  his  father-in- 
law,  the  Earl  of  Argyle,  with  the  view,  even  at  this 
late  hour,  of  winning  him  over  to  the  side  of  law 
and  order.  Of  the  fate  of  the  Government  missives 
the  annals  of  the  time  have  nothing  to  say,  but  it  is 
certain  that  no  heed  was  paid  to  them  by  the  rebel 

These  overtures  having  entirely  failed  in  their 
object,  the  Government  prepared  for  an  invasion  of 
the  Highlands  and  Islands  on  the  most  elaborate 
scale.  One  division  of  the  royal  forces,  commanded 
by  the  Earls  of  Marshall  and  Argyle,  was  sent  to 

1  Acts  of  the  Parliament  of  Scotland,  vol.  II.,  p.  248. 
-  Ibidem, 

304  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

invade  the  Islands  from  the  South  by  Dumbarton, 
while  another  division  under  the  command  of  the 
Earl  of  Huntly,  with  the  Earl  of  Crawford  and  Lord 
Lovat,  went  North.  The  Castles  of  Strome  and 
Ellandonan  were  the  most  important  places  of 
defence  on  the  West  Coast  of  Eoss-shire.  Huntly 
undertook  to  reduce  these,  and  to  supply,  or  raise, 
men,  to  keep  them,  which  was  "  rycht  necessar  for 
the  danting  of  the  Isles/'  on  condition  that  the  King 
should  furnish  a  ship  and  artillery  for  the  purpose.^ 
What  success  attended  the  efforts  of  Huntly  to 
reduce  the  Islesmen  we  know  not,  but  it  is  evident 
the  artillery  necessary  for  the  storming  of  Ellan- 
donan and  Strome  were  not  forthcoming,  and  that 
without  such  aid  it  was  v^ain  to  attack  them. 
The  Castles  of  Kintyre  had  been  in  possession  of 
the  King  since  1493,  but  as  the  rebellion  centred 
more  in  the  North  than  in  the  South  Isles,  these 
were  for  the  present  practically  valueless  as  places 
of  defence.  No  details  of  the  movements  of  either 
division  of  the  royal  army  have  been  preserved. 
We  can,  however,  infer  that  little  success  attended 
their  efforts  to  suppress  the  rebellion  in  the  Isles. 
We  can  well  understand  the  difficulties  in  the  way 
of  the  invading  forces  owing  to  the  inaccessibility  of 
the  Islands  and  their  natural  defences,  but  these 
were  all  in  favour  of  the  rebels,  who  might  have 
held  out  much  longer  if  only  unanimity  had 
prevailed  in  their  counsels.  They  lacked  the  per- 
severance and  stolid  patience  of  their  opponents, 
and  as  success  did  not  attend  them  in  their  first 
rush  for  the  attainment  of  their  object,  they  began 
to  give  way  to  despair. 

1  Acts  of  the  Pari,  of  Scotland,  vol.  II.,  p.  240-249. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    IV.  305 

The  King  himself  now  headed  a  new  expedition 
to  the  Isles,  but  he  had  got  only  as  far  as  Dum- 
barton when  an  insurrection  in  the  southern  division 
of  his  realm  compelled  him  to  return.  A  naval 
force,  however,  under  Sir  Andrew  Wood  and  Robert 
Barton,  was  despatched  to  the  Isles,  while  a  land 
force  was  sent  under  the  Earl  of  Arran.  Huntly 
renewed  operations  in  the  North  evidently  with 
greater  success  than  had  formerly  attended  his 
efforts  in  that  region.^  Wood  and  Barton  directing 
their  course  to  the  West  Coast  of  Argyleshire,  and 
the  Island  of  Mull,  reduced  the  Castle  of  Cairnburgh 
and  otherwise  overawed  the  inhabitants.  The  flame 
of  rebellion  in  the  Isles  was  thus  being  gradually 
extinguished,  and  some  of  the  disaflected  chiefs 
were  already  beginning  to  show  signs  of  surrender. 
Macleod  of  Dun  vegan,  who  had  recently  joined  the 
King's  party,  and  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  sent 
messengers  to  Court  informing  the  King  of  the  state 
of  matters  in  the  Isles,  and  assuring  him  at  the 
same  time  of  their  readiness  to  assist  him  to  the 
utmost  of  their  power  to  put  down  the  insurrection. 
In  response  to  these  representations,  James,  with 
characteristic  energy,  at  once  set  about  collecting 
an  army,  at  the  head  of  which  he  marched  into 
Argyleshire.  John  Barton  was  sent  with  a  fleet  to 
the  Isles.  Whether  any  resistance  was  at  first 
oflered  on  the  part  of  the  Island  Chiefs  does  not 
appear,  but  before  the  King  returned  South  they 
all,  with  one  notable  exception,  came  forward  and 
gave  in  their  submission.  The  rebellion  was  now 
suppressed,  and  the  King  generously  extended  a 
free  pardon  to  the  rebels,  all  except  Torquil  Macleod 

^  Treasurer's  Accounts  for  1505. 


306  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  Lewis.  The  public  records  furnish  us  with  only 
the  broad  outlines  of  this  rebellion,  and  only  vague 
hints  are  given  as  to  the  conduct  of  the  leading 
spirits  in  the  movement.  The  only  reference  to  the 
part  played  by  Donald  Dubh  and  his  followers  is 
that  to  which  we  have  already  alluded,  and  beyond 
this  invasion  of  the  district  of  Badenoch  by  the 
Islanders,  we  have  not  the  slightest  hint  as  to  the 
manner  in  which  they  conducted  the  war  against 
the  Saxon.  It  is  evident,  however,  from  the 
repeated  attacks  m.ade  by  the  Lowland  forces,  and 
the  failure  of  one  expedition  after  another,  that  the 
Islanders  gave  a  good  account  of  themselves  in  the 
fiofht.  The  unfortunate  Donald  Dubh,  who  had 
been  partly  at  least  the  cause  of  so  much  turmoil 
during  these  years,  and  who  had  made  so  gallant  a 
fight  for  his  rights,  is  again  made  a  prisoner.  One 
of  the  charges  made  against  Torquil  Macleod  in  1506 
is  his  refusal  to  deliver  up  Donald  Dubh  to  the 
King.  He,  however,  finally  surrendered  him  to 
Lachlan  Maclean  of  Dowart,  now  on  his  good 
behaviour,  and  he  in  turn  gave  up  the  fugitive  to 
the  King.  The  King  sent  Donald  a  prisoner  to  the 
Castle  of  Edinburgh. 

Torquil  Macleod  still  held  out,  fearing,  no  doubt 
with  good  reason,  that,  if  he  submitted,  the  pardon 
which  had  been  extended  to  the  other  rebels  would 
be  withheld  from  him.  After  being  summoned  to 
appear  before  Parliament  and  refusing  to  attend,  he 
was  again  declared  traitor,  and  his  lands  were  for- 
feited. His  lands  on  the  mainland,  consisting  of  the 
extensive  districts  of  Coigach  and  Assynt,  were 
given  in  life -rent  to  Mackay  of  Strath  naver,  for  his 
good  services  aiid  assistance  in  putting  down  the 

THE    CLAX    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    TY.  307 

rebellion,^  The  Earl  of  Huntly  was  sent  with  a 
force  against  Torqiiil,  and,  proceeding  to  Lewis,  he 
besieged  and  took  tlie  Castle  of  Stornoway.  Torquil, 
however,  managed  to  make  good  his  escape,  and  was 
never,  so  far  as  ^ve  know,  brought  to  task  for  his 
share  in  the  rebelHon  of  Donald  Dubh.  We  learn 
from  a  spirited  poem  by  the  family  bard,  MacCalman, 
the  high  estimation  in  which  this  Lord  of  Lewis  was 
held  by  his  clansmen  and  followers  : — 

'■'  Many  liis  gifts  which  we  might  praise, 
Torquil  of  the  fatuous  race  ; 
His  are  a  hero's  strength  and  vigour, 
Which  he  brings  into  the  fight. 
I  say  of  him,  and  say  in  truth. 
Since  I  have  come  so  well  to  know  him, 
That  never  was  there  of  his  age 
Better  King  who  ruled  in  Lewis. 

Not  braver  of  his  age  was  Cuchulliu, 
Not  hardier  was  he  than  Torquil."  - 

In  1508,  Andrew,  BishojD  of  Caithness,  Ranald 
Allanson  of  Clanranald,  and  Alexander  Macleod  of 
Dunvegan  were  commissioned  by  the  King  to  let 
for  five  years,  to  sufficient  tenants,  the  lands  of 
Lewis,  and  of  Waternish,  in  Skye,  which  were 
forfeited  by  Torquil  Macleod  of  Lewis.''  When  the 
extensive  estates  of  the  Siol  Torquil,  consisting  of 
Lewis,  and  the  district  of  Waternish,  in  the  Lord- 
ship of  the  Isles,  Coigach,  in  the  Earldom  of  Ross, 
and  Assynt,  in  the  Earldom  of  Sutherland,  were 
restored  to  the  family,  in  1511,  the  rebel  Torquil 
was  probably  dead,  for,  if  living,  he  would  not  have 

^  "  Rex, — pro  bono  servitio  in  resistatioue  et  invasioue  rebellium  suorum, 
— concessit  Odoni  Makky  in  Stratlinavern,  pro  tempore  ejus  vite, — ten-as  de 
Assent  et  Ladachchogich,  i*cc.,  quequidem  regi  pertinebant  ratione  forisfacture 
super  Torquellum  Makoloid  olim  de  Le%vis,"  &c. — Eeg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  II.,  3202. 

-  The  Book  of  the  Dean  of  Lismore,  p.  146. 

3  Reg.  Sec.  Sig.,  vol.  III.,  fol.  166. 

308  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

allowed  his  brother,  Malcolm,  take  possession  with- 
out striking  a  blow  for  his  rights.^  Now  that 
the  last  spark  of  rebellion  had  been  extinguished, 
comparative  peace  and  order  prevailed  throughout 
the  Islands,  and  it  does  not  appear  that  the  King's 
threat  of  expelling  the  "  broken  men"  had  been 
carried  out,  at  least  to  any  appreciable  extent.  A 
very  different  policy  seems  to  have  been  pursued. 
In  the  Parliament  which  met  in  1503  an  important 
Act  was  passed  bearing  on  the  Highlands  and 
Islands,  and  which  could  hardly  fail  to  have  in 
time  a  salutary  effect  on  these  regions.  This 
Act  reformed  the  administration  of  justice,  which 
hitherto  in  the  Highlands  had  been  under  the 
jurisdiction  of  the  old  sheriffdoms.  In  the  preamble 
a  complaint  is  made  in  the  strongest  terms  of  the 
lawlessness  and  disorder  that  prevailed  in  the  High- 
lands, and  especially  in  the  Isles.  The  new  sheriffs 
appointed  under  the  Act  were  to  hold  courts  at 
Tarbert  in  Kintyre  for  the  Southern  Isles,  and  at 
Dingwall  and  Inverness  for  the  North. ^  The  Earl 
of  Argyle  was  appointed  to  the  office  of  King's 
Lieutenant  in  the  Southern  Isles,  while  to  the  Earl 
of  Huntly  was  committed  the  administration  of 
justice  in  the  North. 

This  legislation  and  the  policy  pursued  generally 
towards  the  Highlands  were,  for  a  time  at  least,  pro- 
ductive of  good  results.  The  King  now  paid  special 
attention  to  the  Highland  portion  of  his  kingdom, 
and  he  seems  to  have  been  successful  at  last  in 
attaching  the  Islesmen  to  his  interest.  He  had 
made  himself  acquainted  with  the  real  condition  of 
affairs  in  the  Highlands  by  his  frequent  visits,  and 
through  personal  contact  with  the  chiefs  he  had  been 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  IL,  No.  3578.         ^  Acts  of  Parliament,  vol.  II.,  p.  241. 

TflE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  309 

able  ultimately  to  restore  order  and  peace  among 
them.  We  cannot  praise  too  highly  the  King's 
conduct  for  the  conciliatory  manner  in  which  he 
acted  towards  the  Islanders  after  the  rebellion  of 
Donald  Dubh,  and  it  says  much  for  his  sagacity  as  a 
ruler  that  he  had  been  able,  in  so  short  a  time,  to 
bring  about  changes  so  beneficial  in  circumstances  so 
difiicult.  There  is  every  evidence  that  to  the  end  of 
his  reign  he  retained  great  popularity  with  all  classes 
of  his  Highland  subjects. 

The  light  which  the  history  of  that  time  throws 
on  the  position  of  the  different  chieftains  of  the 
Clan  Donald  and  their  relationship  to  the  Crown 
waxes  somewhat  dim  after  the  suppression  of 
the  rebellion.  The  King,  as  we  have  seen, 
revoked  in  the  year  1498  all  the  charters  which 
he  had  formerly  granted  to  the  vassals  of  the 
Isles.  It  appears  that  during  the  remainder  of 
his  reign  he  made  no  further  grants  of  lands  to 
the  Macdonald  chieftains,  with  the  exception  of 
Ma  clan  of  Ardnamurchan  and  Kanald  Allanson  of 
Clanranald.  The  other  chieftains  were  allowed  to 
keep  possession  of  their  lands  without  any  title. 
Maclan,  largely  no  doubt  influenced  by  the  Earl 
of  Argyle,  had  all  along  remained  firm  in  his  adher- 
ence to  the  King's  cause,  and  he  now  reaped  the 
reward  of  his  loyalty  in  large  grants  of  lands  which 
the  King  bestowed  upon  him  in  Isla,  Kintyre,  and 
elsewhere.  In  1494,  James  granted  him,  for  his 
willing  obedience  and  good  service,  a  charter  of 
lands  in  Isla  and  Morvern — forfeited  by  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles — with  the  office  of  Bailie  of  the  lands 
of  Isla,  which  Maclan  had  formerly  held  of  John, 
Lord  of  the    Isles. ^      In    1499   the   King   makes  a 

ster  of  the  Great  Seal,  vol.  IL,  Nu.  2216. 

310  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

fm^tlier  grant  of  lands  in  Isla  and  Jura  to  Maclan, 
extending  in  all  to  200  marklands/  In  1505,  "for 
the  good,  faithful,  and  willing  service  done  to  him. 
by  his  dear  John  Makkane  of  Ardnamurchane,"  the 
King  confirms  him  in  all  the  lands  formerly  granted 
to  him  in  Isla  and  Jura,  and  in  the  lower  part  of 
Ai^dnamurchan  and  Suanart,  with  the  Castles  of 
Mingarry  and  Dunnyveg,  and  the  office  of  bailliary 
formerly  conferred  upon  him,"  Again,  in  1506,  the 
same  lands  are  confirmed  to  him.^  Maclan  was 
therefore  at  this  time  the  most  influential  and 
powerful  chieftain  of  the  Clan  Donald. 

Of  aU  the  families  of  the  house  of  Somerled,  the 
Macdonalds  of  Dunnyveg  and  the  Glens  fared  worst. 
Their  history  is  somewhat  obscure  during  this 
period.  The  survivors  of  1495,  escaping  from  the 
vengeance  which  overtook  Sir  John  and  his  son, 
John  Cathanach,  in  that  year,  took  refage  in  their 
own  territory  and  amongst  theu^  relatives  in 
the  Antrim  Glens.  Hugh  Macdonald,  in  the  un- 
published portion  of  his  manuscript,  referring 
probably  to  the  period  after  King  James's  death 
at  Floddeu,  tells  how  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan 
sent  his  two  sons,  at  the  head  of  a  body  of  men, 
from  Isla  to  the  Glens  of  Antrim  to  capture  Alex- 
ander, the  son  of  John  Cathanach.  Alexander  was 
at  Glensheich  with  140  men  when  the  Maclans  and 
the  men  of  Isla  landed.  He  at  once  attacked  the 
invaders,  and  after  a  sanguinary  encounter,  the  Isla 
men  were  worsted  and  most  of  them  slain,  among 
the  latter  being  Maclan's  two  sons.  During  the 
engagement  the  Smith  of  Isla,  followed  by  50  men, 
deserted  the  Maclans  and  joined  the  banner  of  the 

^  Argjle  Charters. 
-  Keg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vul.  11.,  No.  2895.  =*  Ibidem,  vol.  IL,  Xu.  3001. 

THE    CLAX    DOXALD    UXDER   JAMES   IV.  311 

Lord  of  the  Glens.  Alexander,  with  his  men, 
took  the  enemy's  boats  and  crossed  over  to  Isla. 
MacNiven,  the  Constable  of  Dunnyveg,  gave  him 
possession  of  that  stronghold,  and  informed  him 
that  Maclan  was  on  Island  Lochgorm,  which 
Alexander  forthwith  besieged,  and  Maclan  was 
compelled  to  surrender.  Before  doing  so,  however, 
and  agreeing  to  smTender  his  lands  in  Isla  to 
Alexander,  the  latter  implemented  the  bargain  by 
faithfully  promising  to  marry  Maclan's  daughter.^ 
Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  appears  to  have  taken  no 
part  in  the  rebellion  of  Donald  Dubh,  and  it  is 
certain  that  from  1495  to  the  death  of  King  James 
in  1513  he  held  no  lands  in  Scotland. 

Less  perhaps  is  known  of  the  history  of  the 
family  of  Hugh  of  Sleat  at  this  period  than  of 
any  of  the  families  of  Macdonald.  John  of  Sleat, 
the  eldest  son  of  Hugh,  for  some  unknown  reason 
passed  over  his  estates  to  the  family  of  Clam^anald, 
and  ignored  the  claims  of  his  brothers.  This  seems 
altogether  strange  in  view  of  the  diflerences  which 
had  lasted  now  for  some  time  between  the  two 
families  over  lands  in  Benbecula,  for  which  Hugh 
of  Sleat  held  a  charter.  It  would  appear,  for  some 
reason  or  another,  that  John  had  quarrelled  with  his 
brothers,  and  took  these  steps  to  exclude  them  from 
the  succession.  But  though  the  conveyance  of  the 
lands  of  Hug;h  of  Sleat  to  the  Clanranald  was  ratified 
by  a  charter  of  confirmation  from  the  King  in  1498, 
to  which  we  have  abeady  referred,  it  is  certain  that 
the  Clan  Uisdean  kept  possession  of  their  lands  both 
in  Skye  and  in  North  Uist,  though  they  had  no 
legal  title.  John  of  Sleat  himself  died  at  the  very 
beginning  of  the  sixteenth  century,  and  he  tlierefore 

^  Hugh  Macdouald's  MS. 

3l^  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

could  not  have  taken  any  part  personally  in  the 
rebellion  of  Donald  Dubh.  Donald  Gallach,  how- 
ever, the  second  son  of  Hugh  of  Sleat,  who  became 
head  of  the  family  on  the  death  of  John,  played  a 
prominent  part  in  the  insular  insurrection ;  but  his 
career  was  cut  short,  according  to  the  tradition  of 
the  country,  by  the  hand  of  his  brother,  Gilleasbuig 
Dubh.  From  a  "  Respitt "  granted  by  the  King  to 
Gilleasbuig,  and  dated  at  Edinburgh  in  1508,  it 
would  appear  that,  though  accused  of  other  crimes, 
the  murder  of  Donald  Gallach  was  not  specially  laid 
to  his  charge.  On  the  contrary,  what  we  find  is  a 
"  Respitt  to  Archibald  Auchonsoune  of  the  Ilys  and 
XXVIII.  utheris  (because  of  thair  grit  lawbouris 
deligence  and  gude  and  thankfull  service  done  be 
his  hienes  in  the  perserving  and  taking  of  Auchane 
Duncane  Dowsone,  Sorle  his  sone,  and  Donald  Mule 
Makalester,  his  rebellis,  and  being  at  the  home ; 
and  for  the  bringing  and  delivering  of  thaim  to 
be  maid  to  his  gude  grace  (or  to  quham  he  ordanis 
thame  to  be  deliverit  be  his  writingis)  for  the 
slauchter  of  umquhile  Donald  Hutchonsoune  other- 
wayis  called  Gauldlauche,  bruder  to  the  said 
Archibald.  And  for  all  otheris  Slauchteris,  Here- 
schippis,  Birningis,  Reffis,  Murtheris,  &c.,  before 
the  date  of  his  Respitt ;  for  bhe  space  of  19 
yeris.  Providing  alwayis  that  gif  his  said  Rebellis 
beis  not  broclit,  &c.,  his  Respitt  to  be  of  none  avail, 
&c.  (Subscript  per  dominum  Regem  apud  Edin- 
burgh)."^ The  persons  charged  here  with  the  murder 
of  Donald  Gallach  are  Auchane  Duncane  Dowsone, 
Sorle  his  sone,  and  Donald  Mule  Makalester,  evi- 
dently Gilleasbuig  Dubh's  former  accomplices.  There 
need    be    no    donbt,  liowever,  notwithstanding    the 

'  Pitcaini's  Criminal  Trials,  vol.  1.,  p.  lOS. 


attempt  to  shield  him  on  the  part  of  the  Govern- 
ment, that  Gilleasbuig  was  guilty,  not  only  of  the 
murder  of  Donald  Gallach,  but  also  of  the  murder  of 
Donald  Herrach,  in  North  Uist.  These  two  alone 
stood  between  him  and  the  accomplishment  of  the 
ambitious  scheme  which  he  had  conceived  of  posses- 
sing himself  of  the  family  inheritance.  In  this  he 
succeeded,  but  he  soon  made  himself  so  obnoxious  to 
the  adherents  of  the  family  that  they  compelled  him 
to  surrender  his  newly  acquired  dignity.  Gilleasbuig 
had  to  reckon,  not  only  with  the  Clan  Uisdean,  but 
also  with  the  Clanranald  ;  for,  as  we  have  seen,  the 
King  had  confirmed  to  them  the  lands  surrendered 
by  John  of  Sleat,  both  in  Skye  and  in  North  Uist. 
Thus,  hemmed  in  on  all  sides,  Gilleasbuig  abandoned 
himself  to  a  wild  and  lawless  career,  and  in  a  short 
time  he  and  his  piratical  band  became  the  terror  of 
the  Western  Isles.  According  to  Hugh  Macdonald, 
Gilleasbuig  was  expelled  from  the  North  Isles  by 
Ranald  Bane  MacAUan  of  Clanranald,  and  having 
taken  refuge  in  the  South  Isles,  he  was  joined  by 
E/Onald  Mor  and  Alester  Bearnach  MacAlister,  with 
whom  he  remained  for  three  years.  With  these  as 
his  lieutenants,  Gilleasbuig,  at  the  head  of  his  band, 
plundered  all  the  ships  that  passed  through  the 
Southern  seas.^  By  whatever  means,  he,  however 
succeeded  in  again  taking  possession  of  a  portion 
of  the  territories  of  Clan  Uisdean,  and,  turning 
King's  evidence,  he  was  pardoned  by  Government 
for  his  past  crimes  and  misdemeanours.  In 
1510,  at  a  Justiciary  Court  held  at  Inverness, 
precept  of  remission  is  issued  to  Gilleasbuig  Dubh, 
Bailie  of  Troternish,  and  others,  John  MacGille- 
martin     and     sixty -three      others,     for      common 

^  Hugh  Macdonald. 

314  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

oppression  of  the  lieges,  and  for  resetting,  sup- 
plying, and  intercommuning  with  the  King's  rebels, 
and  also  for  fire  raising/  Shortly  after  this 
Gilleasbuig  is  confirmed  in  the  office  of  Bailie  of 
Troternish,  which  he  had  assumed,  by  a  Privy 
Council  missive,  and  the  tenants  of  Troternish  are 
enjoined  not  to  disturb  him  in  the  possession  of  that 
extensive  district.^  Thus  Gilleasbuig  Dubh  became 
at  least  de  facto  head  and  leader  of  the  Clan  Uisdean, 
and  he  continued  to  occupy  that  position  during  the 
remainder  of  his  life.  His  tenure  of  his  usurped 
jDosition  was,  however,  a  short-lived  one,  for  we  find 
that,  on  the  10th  of  March,  1517,  the  King  gave  to 
Lachlan  Maclean  of  Dowart  the  4  marklands  of 
Scalpa,  in  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  pertaining  to 
His  Majesty  through  the  decease  of  Archibald, 
bastard  son  of  Hugh  of  Sleat,  without  legitimate 
heirs.^  According  to  Hugh  Macdonald,  Gilleasbuig 
Dubh  was  murdered  while  out  shooting  on  Ben  Lee, 
in  North  Uist,  by  his  nephews,  Donald  Gruamach 
Macdonald  Gallaich  and  Banald  Macdonald  Her- 

The  position  of  the  Clanranald  at  this  period  is 
somewhat  obscured  by  the  contradictory  statements 
of  historians  in  regard  to  their  attitude  towards  the 
Scottish  Government.  At  one  time  we  find  them 
in  high  favour  with  the  King,  but  on  the  change  of 
policy  by  James  in  1498,  they  undoubtedly,  like  the 
other  Islanders,  broke  out  into  open  revolt  against 
his  authority.  There  are  indications  of  their  having 
been  shortly  after  this  received  into  royal  favour, 
but  these  are  not  clear  enough  to  warrant  us  in 
concluding   that   they    had   not   rallied   round   the 

^  Inveruessiana,  by  Mr  Fi-aser-Mackintosh,  p.  193. 
2  Reg.  Sec.  Sig.  IV.,  fol.  70.         ^  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  III.,  Nu.  134. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  315 

standard  of  Donald  Dubh.  There  appears  to  be 
little  doubt  that  they  supported  to  the  last  the 
pretensions  of  that  unfortunate  man.  On  the 
suppression  of  the  rebellion,  however,  we  find  them 
again  in  favour  at  Court.  The  King,  on  the  23rd 
of  August,  granted  at  Stirling  to  Ranald  Allanson, 
of  Island  Begram,  while  his  father  was  still  alive, 
the  lands  of  Sleat  in  Skye,  with  the  Castle  of 
Dunskaich,  the  lands  of  Illeray,  Paible,  Paiblisgarry, 
Balranald,  Hougarry,  Watna,  Scolpeg,  Griminish, 
Vallay,  Walls,  Islandgarvay,  Orinsay,  Talmartin, 
Sand,  Boreray,  and  Garrymore,  all  in  North  Uist, 
and  Lordship  of  the  Isles. ^  Very  soon  after  this  the 
Clanranald  Chief,  Allan  MacBuarie,  was  according 
to  Gregory,  brought  before  the  King  at  Blair- Athole 
and  executed  for  some  undefinable  crime.  Gregory 
gives  as  his  authority  the  Book  of  Clanranald,  but 
MacVuirich  makes  no  reference  to  the  crime,  trial, 
or  execution,  of  Allan  MacBuarie,  though,  if  the 
traditions  of  the  Clan  are  to  be  believed,  that 
"  demon  of  the  Gael  and  fierce  ravager  of  Church 
and  Cross"  richly  deserved  capital  punishment." 
We  infer  from  MacVuirich,  on  the  contrary,  that 
Allan  was  well  received  by  the  King,  and  that 
having  obtained  a  confirmation  of  his  lands  by  the 
hand  of  his  Majesty,  he  died  at  Blair- Athole  in 
1509.^  The  same  story  is  repeated  in  almost  every 
detail  of  Allan's  son  and  successor,  Banald,  who 
having  gone  to  pay  homage  to  the  King  at  Perth, 
died  there  in  1514.* 

Little  or  nothing  is  known  of  the  history  of  the 
Macdonalds  of  Glencoe  at  this  time,  though  we  may 

1  Reg.  Mag.  Sig.,  vol.  IL,  No.  2873. 

2  Vide  poem  by  Fiulay,  the  red-haii-ed  bard,  ou  Allan  MacRuarie  in  "  The 
Book  of  the  Dean  of  Lismore,"  p.  143. 

'  MatVuh-ich  in  llclici.  Celticre,  p.  169. 
^  Ibidem,  p.  169. 

316  THE    CLAN   DONALD. 

conclude  from  their  act  in  liberating  Donald  Dubh 
from  Inchconnel  that  they  played  a  prominent  part 
in  the  troubles  that  followed. 

The  Macdonalds  of  Keppoch  shared  alike  the 
fortunes  and  the  reverses  of  the  other  branches  of 
Clan  Donald.  They  followed  the  banner  of  Donald 
Dubh  with  the  other  clansmen,  and  did  so  probably 
with  less  compunction  on  the  score  of  consequences 
than  any  of  the  clans,  for  the  gallant  Keppochs  were 
among  the  few  who  acted  independently  of  Royal 
Charters.  They  were  occupied  later  on  with 
domestic  differences  which  fall  to  be  dealt  with 
more  appropriately  in  our  next  rather  than  in  this 

The  Chief  of  Lochalsh,  who  was  a  minor  at  the 
time  of  his  father's  death,  was  too  young  to  take 
any  part  in  the  recent  insurrection.  It  seems  that 
the  King,  on  one  of  his  visits  to  the  Highlands, 
persuaded  the  sons  of  Alexander  of  Lochalsh  to 
accompany  him  to  Edinburgh,  no  doubt  with  the 
view  of  teaching  them,  among  other  things,  loyalty 
to  the  Scottish  throne.  They  remained  at  Court  for 
several  years,  and  many  references  are  made  to 
"  Donald  of  the  His,  the  King's  hensboy,"  in  the 
Treasurer's  Accounts  of  that  time.  Several  items 
appear  in  these  Accounts  of  payments  for  Donald, 
in  passing  to  and  from  the  Isles,  and  for  clothes  and 
other  necessaries,  and  also  for  Konald  of  the  Isles, 
who  no  doubt  was  another  son  of  Alexander  of 
Lochalsh.^  Donald,  who,  for  his  residence  in  the 
Lowlands  was  called  by  the  Higlilanders  "  Donald 
Gallda,"  became  a  great  favourite  with  the  King, 
who,    it    is    said,   knighted    him    on    Flodden    field. 

'  Treasurei-'s  Accounts,  1508-13.  Acta  Doaiinorum  Concilii,  Book  2-i. 
p.  186. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    IV.  317 

The  King,  besides,  gave  him  possession  of  bis 
father's  lands  of  Lochalsh. 

We  find  no  reference  made  to  the  family  of  Glen- 
garry at  this  time  in  the  history  of  the  Clan  Donald, 
though  we  may  be  sure  they  had  an  active  share  in 
the  attempt  of  the  Islanders  to  set  up  the  Celtic 
supremacy  once  more  in  the  Isles.  They  afterwards 
became  a  powerful  family  on  succeeding  by  marriage 
to  the  lands  of  the  Macdonalds  of  Lochalsh. 

We  have  thus  endeavoured  to  trace  briefly  the 
history  of  the  different  branches  of  the  Family  of 
Macdonald  subsequent  to  the  fall  of  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles,  and  the  changes  brought  about  by  that 
event  in  their  attitude  towards  the  Scottish  State. 
With  one  exception,  they  had  all  united  in  the 
attempt  to  set  up  again  the  Celtic  7'egime  in  the 
Isles,  and  though  during  the  lull  that  followed  the 
storm  they  appear  to  acquiesce  in  the  new  order  of 
things,  they  are  far,  as  we  shall  soon  see,  from  being 
satisfied  with  it.  To  Argyle  had  been  entrusted  the 
government  of  the  South  Isles,  with  a  plenitude  of 
power  dangerous  in  less  unscrupulous  hands.  To 
Huntly  was  committed  the  government  of  the  North, 
with  equal  power  over  the  King's  lieges  in  that 
region.  The  men  to  whom  the  government  of  the 
Highlands  and  Islands  was  thus  committed  were 
both  grasping  and  unprincipled  noblemen,  whose 
chief  aim  was  to  enrich  themselves  at  the  expense  of 
the  old  vassals  of  the  Isles.  In  these  circumstances, 
peace  could  not  be  expected  to  reign  long  in  these 
regions.  The  King  himself  did  not  now  visit  the 
Highlands  so  frequently,  being  engaged  elsewhere, 
and  in  those  transactions  which  proved  finally  so 
disastrous  to  the  country  and  to  himself  To  the 
dark  field  of  Flodden  James  was  followed  by  many 

318  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  the  hardy  clans  of  the  North,  includmg  the  Mac- 
donalds.  Here  they  fought  with  the  courage  and 
bravery  characteristic  of  the  sons  of  the  mountains, 
and  suffered  so  severely  at  the  hands  of  the  English 
pikemen  as  to  have  been  well  nigh  annihilated. 
Some  historians  have  attributed  to  the  Highlanders 
a  large  share  in  bringing  about  the  defeat  of  the 
Scottish  army  at  Flodden.  Eager  to  engage  in  a 
hand-to-hand  fight,  so  characteristic  of  Highland 
warfare,  they  broke  their  ranks  and  threw  them- 
selves with  great  violence  on  the  foe.  Notwith- 
standing this  irregularity  on  the  part  of  the 
Highlanders,  the  defeat  of  the  Scottish  army  was 
brought  about  mainly  by  the  wrong-headedness  of 
the  King  himself,  who  paid  the  penalty  of  his 
obstinacy  with  his  life.  On  the  morning  after  the 
battle,  the  body  of  the  gallant  James  was  found 
among  the  thickest  of  the  slain.  The  character  of 
the  King  in  the  administration  of  the  aifairs  of  his 
kingdom  deserves,  in  many  respects,  our  admiration. 
Great  activity  and  earnestness,  combined  with  much 
patience  and  moderation,  characterised  most  of  his 
efforts  to  restore  order  and  good  government 
throughout  his  kingdom,  and  it  is  safe  to  say  that 
none  of  his  predecessors  had  been  altogether  so 
successful  in  the  government  of  the  Highlands  and 
Islands.^  The  King's  death  had  the  effect  of 
bringing  disorder  and  confusion  into  every  depart- 
ment of  the  State.  The  removal  of  so  strong  a 
personality  from  the  chief  place  in  the  counsels  of 
the  nation  had  an  immediate  and  inju.rious  effect 
on  the  condition  of  his  Highland  subjects. 

^  In  the  Register  of  the  Great  Seal  and  Treasurer's  Accounts  for  the  years 
1488-1513,  wc  have  ample  evidence  of  the  King's  administrative  powers  and 
indomitable  energy. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  319 

The  surviving  Highlanders  had  no  sooner  returned 
from  Flodden  than  the  standard  of  rebellion  was 
again  raised,  and  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh  was  pro- 
clainied  Lord  of  the  Isles.  It  is  not  necessary  at 
this  stage  to  enter  with  any  minuteness  into  the 
claims  of  Sir  Donald  Gallda  to  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles.  Donald  Dubh  still  remains  a  prisoner  in 
Edinburgh  Castle,  but  even  after  him  there  were 
others  who  might  put  forward  claims  at  least  as 
good  as  those  of  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh.  Sir  Donald 
himself,  it  is  said,  affirmed  that  he  claimed  the  Lord- 
ship of  the  Isles  for  Donald  Dubh.  At  a  meeting  of 
Islesmen,  held  at  Kyleakin,  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg, 
according  to  Hugh  Macdonald,  proposed  Donald 
Gruamach  of  Sleat  for  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles.^  It 
seems  to  us  that  at  this  time  it  was  not  a  question 
with  the  Islanders  who  had  the  best  claims  among 
the  competitors  to  the  Island  Lordship.  What  they 
desired  above  all  was  a  change  in  the  government  of 
the  Isles,  and  they  were,  therefore,  prepared  to  rally 
round  any  leader  likely  to  bring  about  this  result. 
This  explains  the  readiness  with  which  they  joined 
the  standard  of  Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh.  The  Mac- 
leods  of  Lewis  and  Harris,  Maclean  of  Dowart, 
Alexander  of  Dunnyveg,  Chisholm  of  Comer,  and 
Alexander  Maclan  of  Glengarry  now  rally  round  the 
newly  proclaimed  Lord  of  the  Isles.  Sir  Donald,  at 
the  head  of  a  considerable  force,  and  assisted  by 
Alexander  of  Glengarry  and  Chisholm  of  Comer, 
oj)ened  his  campaign  by  invading  the  lands  of  John 
Grant  of  Freuchy,  in  Urquhart,  which  he  laid  waste 
with  fire  and  sword.  Having  next  directed  his 
attention  to  the  Castle  of  Urquhart,  he  besieged  it 
and  expelled  the  garrison.    According  to  Mr  William 

^  Hugh  Macdouald,  iu  Collectanea  cle  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  322. 

320  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Mackay,  in  his  "  Urquhart  and  Glenmoriston,"  the 
spoil  that  fell  to  Sir  Donald  was  rich  and  varied, 
and  consisted  of  household  furniture  and  victuals,  of 
the  value  in  all  of  more  than  £100  ;  while  the  booty 
from  the  different  lands  consisted  of  300  cattle  and 
1000  sheep,  740  bolls  of  bear  and  1080  bolls  of  oats. ^ 
Sir  Donald  kept  possession  of  the  Castle  and  lands 
of  Urquhart  until  he  made  his  peace  with  the  Regent 
Albany,  in  1515,  and  although  Grant  of  Freuchy 
obtained  a  decree  against  him  for  "  Tua  Thousand 
pund  with  the  mair,"  it  appears  the  debt  was  never 

The  rebellion  proceeded  apace,  and  raged  with 
great  fury  in  the  Islands.  Maclean  of  Dowart 
seized  the  royal  Castle  of  Cairnburgh  in  Mull,  and 
Macleod  of  Harris  seized  the  Castle  of  Dunskaich 
in  Skye,  which  they  held  for  the  new  Lord  of  the 
Isles.  Alarmed  at  the  formidable  appearance  which 
the  insurrection  now  assumed,  the  Kegent  Albany 
took  immediate  steps  to  crush  it.  The  Earl  of 
Argyle  was  commissioned  by  the  Council  to  take 
proceedings  against  Lachlan  Maclean  of  Dowart 
and  others  in  the  South  Isles.  Munro  of  Fowlis 
and  Mackenzie  of  Kintail  were  employed  to  harass 
Sir  Donald  in  the  North ;  while  Lochiel  and 
Mackintosh  were  appointed  guardians  of  Lochaber. 
The  Council  besides  caused  letters  to  be  written 
to  the  chiefs  whose  lands  lay  along  the  mainland 
coast  urging  them  to  resist  the  landing  of  the 
Islesmen.  All  these  measures  seemed  to  have  no 
appreciable  effect  in  quelling  the  rebellion.  Maclan 
of  Ardnamurchan,  who  had  still  retained  his  old 
loyalty,  was  commissioned  to  treat  with  the  less 
rebellious  section  of  the  insurgent  Islesmen,  promis- 

^  "  Urquhart  and  Glenmoriston,"  p.  85. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    IV.  321 

ing  on  behalf  of  the  Regent  pardon  for  past 
transgressions,  and  offering  favours  to  such  as 
should  shew  themselves  willing  to  submit.  It 
would  appear  that  Maclan's  interposition  had  the 
desired  effect  on  several  of  the  Islesmen.  Argyle 
also  had  succeeded  in  persuading  the  Macleans  and 
others  in  the  South  Isles  to  submit  to  the  Regent. 
On  September  6th,  1515,  John,  Duke  of  Albany, 
Regent  of  the  Kingdom,  granted  to  Lachlan 
Maclean  of  Dowart  and  Alexander  Macleod  of 
Dunvegan,  their  servants,  landed  men,  gentlemen, 
and  yeomen,  a  remission  for  all  past  crimes,  and  in 
particular  for  besieging  and  taking  the  Castles  of 
Cairnburgh  and  Dunskaich,  and  holding  them 
against  his  authority,  and  for  assisting  Sir  Donald 
of  Lochalsh  and  his  accomplices,  the  remission 
to  last  till  January,  1516.^  The  arch  rebel. 
Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh,  himself  and  Albany  were 
shortly  thereafter  reconciled.  So  we  have,  on  the 
23rd  August,  1515,  "  Ane  Respit  maid  be  avise 
of  the  Governour  to  Donald  of  the  His  of 
Lochalsh  Kynt  and  with  him  uther  thre  scoir  of 
persons,  his  kynnsmen,  freindis,  or  servandis,  for 
all  maner  of  actionis,  and  crimes,  bigane  to  cumand 
repare  to  Edinburgh  or  ony  uther  place  within  the 
realms  to  commune  with  the  said  governour  and  do 
thair  eirrandes  and  return  agane ;  for  the  space  of 
IX  dayis  next  to  cum  after  the  date  hereof"^ 
Disputes  between  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan  and 
Sir  Donald  having  been  submitted  to  neutral 
parties  for  adjustment,  the  last  spark  of  rebellion 
was  extinguished.  The  aspect  of  affairs  now  seemed 
to  augur  well  for  the  peace  of  the  Isles.  The 
Government  had  been  most  lenient  with  the  rebels, 

'  Orig.  Par.  Soot.,  p.  32-3,  "  Pitcairn's  Criminal  Trials,  vol.  I.,  p.  533. 


322  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  with  none  more  so  than  with  the  leader  himself, 
who,  as  we  shall  see  presently,  least  of  all  deserved 
the  pardon  that  had  been  extended  to  him. 

It  is  difficult  to  account  for  the  conduct  of  Sir 
Donald.  Evidently  he  was  not  satisfied  with  the 
award  of  the  arbiters  in  the  dispute  between  him 
and  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan,  and  the  old  feud 
between  them  was  revived.  At  all  events,  the 
restless  chief  of  Lochalsh  again  began  to  show  signs 
of  disaffection,  and  the  quarrel  between  him  and 
Maclan  was  made  a  pretext  for  hostilities  in  the 
Northern  Highlands.  Besides,  a  favourable  oppor- 
tunity to  strike  another  blow  for  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles  had  now  come  in  the  rebellion  of  Lord 
Home,  with  whom  Sir  Donald  appears  to  have 
been  in  league  for  English  assistance.^  Any  pretext 
seemed  to  serve  the  Knight  of  Lochalsh  in  raising 
the  standard  of  revolt,  and  every  fresh  opportunity 
was  taken  to  gain  the  object  of  his  ambition,  which 
seems  to  have  been  nothing  less  or  more  tlian  the 
restoration  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  in  his  own 
person.  He  succeeded  in  gaining  the  adherence  of 
some  of  the  Island  chiefs  by  making  them  believe 
that  he  had  been  appointed  by  Government  Lieuten- 
ant of  the  Isles.  His  object,  in  the  first  instance, 
was  to  punish  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan  for,  among 
other  things,  the  murder  of  Alexander  of  Lochalsh 
at  Orinsay.  He  invaded  Maclan's  lands  accordingly, 
took  possession  of  the  Castle  of  Mingarry,  which  he 
razed  to  the  ground,  and  wasted  the  district  with 
fire  and  sword.     His  principal  supporters,  Lachlan 

^  "  Remission  to  Alexander  Mackloid  of  Dunvegane,  and  all  his  kinsmen, 
friends,  and  servants,  &c.,  for  their  assistance  and  supply  given  to  Donald  of 
the  Isles  of  Lochalsh  Knight  at  the  time  of  his  being  with  Alexander  Lord 
Hume  in  his  treasonable  deeds  ;  and  for  all  other  crimes,  offences,  and  actions 
whatsoever  without  any  exception." — Pitcairn,  vol.  I.,  p.  534, 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES   IV.  323 

Maclean  of  Dowart  and  Alexander  Macleod  of 
Dunvegan,  now  understood  the  real  motive  that 
actuated  Sir  Donald's  conduct,  which  had  become 
so  violent  that  they  resolved  to  apprehend  him  and 
hand  him  over  to  the  Government.  He,  however, 
succeeded  in  making  good  his  escape ;  but  his  two 
brothers,  who  seem  to  have  been  art  and  part  with 
him  in  his  recent  violent  proceedings,  were  captured 
by  Maclean  of  Dowart  and  taken  to  Edinburgh, 
where,  after  trial  before  the  Council,  they  paid 
the  extreme  penalty  of  the  law. 

Alexander  Macleod  of  Dunvegan,  and  the  Mac- 
leans of  Dowart  and  Lochbuy,  who  had  been  led  by 
the  pretensions  of  the  Knight  of  Lochalsh  to  join  in 
his  rebellion,  now  hastened  to  give  in  their  submis- 
sion to  the  Regent  and  Council,  and  offered  their 
services  against  Sir  Donald.  They  sent  separate 
petitions  to  the  Council,  in  which  they  asked  a  free 
pardon  for  past  offences,  and  especially  for  assisting 
Sir  Donald  of  Lochalsh  in  his  recent  treasonable 
doings,  which  was  granted  on  the  12th  of  March, 
1517.^  The  petitioners  further  demanded  grants  of 
lands  in  Mull,  Tiree,  and  Skye,^  as  the  price  of  the 
services  to  be  rendered  by  them  to  the  Government. 
These  lands^  with  few  exceptions,  the  Council  agreed 
to  give  them  possession  of,  and  as  proof  of  their 
earnest  desire  to  aid  the  Regent  against  the  rebels, 
Macleod  and  the  Macleans  demanded  the  forfeiture 
of  Sir  Donald  Gallda  as  the  first  step  towards  the 
restoration  of  peace  in  the  Isles.    Lachlan  Cattanach 

1  Reg.  Secret!  Sigilli,  vol.  V.,  foUo  101. 

^  Alexander  Macleod  was  continued  as  Crown  tenant  of  the  extensive 
district  of  Troternish,  in  Skye.  Lachlan  Cattanach  demanded  "  the  hundreth 
merk  landis  in  the  lie  of  Tery  and  utheris  landis  in  the  Mule."  "As  to  the 
landis  of  Mul  and  utheri.s  landis  that  the  said  Lauchlane  had  of  befoir  of  the 
Kingis  grace  now  desirit  in  few  ferm  be  him." — Acta  Dom.  Con.,  vol.  XXIX. 
fol.  130. 

324  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

demanded  a  remission  for  himself,  "  kynnsmen, 
servandis,  frendis,  and  partakars,  that  is,  Donald 
Makalane,  Gillonan  Maknele  of  Barry,  Nele  Mak- 
ynnon  of  Mesnes,  Downsleif  Makcura  of  Ulway,  and 
Lauchlan  MacEwin  of  Ardgour,  for  all  crimes  be 
past."  After  specifying  the  lands  which  he  desired 
the  Regent  and  Council  to  give  him  possession  of, 
and  the  conditions  on  which  these  were  to  be  held, 
the  petitioner  recommends  the  "justifying  (execu- 
tion) of  Donaldis  twa  brethir  and  forfactour  aganis 
the  said  Donald  ;"  but  there  is  no  desire  expressed 
in  regard  to  the  "  destroying  of  the  wicked  blood  of 
the  Isles,"  with  which  Gregory  credits  Lachlan 
Cattanach.^  The  Earl  of  Argyle  at  the  same  time 
petitioned  the  Council,  craving  a  commission  of 
lieutenandry  over  the  Isles,  "  for  the  honour  of  the 
realm  and  the  common-weal  in  time  to  come,"  which 
was  granted.^  The  Council  further  gave  him  full 
power  to  grant  remission  for  past  offences,  and 
restore  their  lands  to  such  of  the  Island  Chiefs  as 
should  deliver  hostages,  or  find  other  security  for 
the  payment  of  Crown  dues,  "  because  the  men  of 
the  Isles  are  fickle  of  mind,  and  set  but  little  value 
upon  their  oaths  and  written  obligations."  From 
this  immunity,  however,  "  Sir  Donald  of  the  His 
his  brethir  and  Clan  and  Clan-donale"  were  excluded. 
The  Earl,  whose  commission  was  limited  to  three 
years,  was  instructed  by  the  Council  to  "  persew 
Donald  of  the  His  and  expell  him  out  of  the  His 
and  hald  him  thairout,  and  sege  his  hous  incontinent 
and  do  at  his  utter  pouer,"  but  no  success  seems  to 
have  attended  his  efforts  in  this  direction. 

'  The  petition  of  Lachlan  Cattanach  Maclean  is  given  in  fuU  from  the 
A.cis  of  the  Lords  of  Council,  vol.  XXIX.,  fol.  130,  in  Mr  J.  P.  Maclean's 
History  of  the  Clan  Maclean,  pp.  68,  69. 

2  Acta  Dominorum  Concilii,  vol.  XXIX.,  fol.  210. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES   IV.  325 

The  Knight  of  Lochalsh  had  meanwhile  taken 
refuge  in  the  Isles,  and  notwithstanding  the  deter- 
mined opposition  of  his  recent  allies,  he  still  seems  to 
have  had  a  considerable  following.  He  was  evidently 
not  satisfied  with  the  punishment  he  had  already 
been  able  to  inflict  on  his  enemy,  Maclan  of  Ardna- 
murchan.  Maclan  had  made  himself  obnoxious  not 
only  to  his  own  clan,  but  also  to  all  those  who  still 
remained  faithful  to  the  Family  of  the  Isles.  It 
was  against  him,  therefore,  that  Sir  Donald  in  the 
first  place  directed  his  energies,  and  he  resolved  to 
make  every  effort  to  crush  him.  Besides  the  murder 
of  his  father,  Sir  Alexander,  which  he  had  not 
sufficiently  avenged  on  Maclan,  that  chieftain  was 
also  one  of  the  most  powerful  among  those  who 
opposed  Sir  Donald's  pretensions  to  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles.  During  the  interval  in  his  operations 
which  followed  the  siege  of  Mingarry,  Sir  Donald,  it 
would  appear,  had  put  himself  under  the  protection 
of  Macleod  of  Lewis,  and  assisted  by  that  chief, 
Macleod  of  Raasay,  and  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg, 
now  that  a  favourable  opportunity  had  come,  he 
opened  his  campaign  afresh  in  the  district  of  Ardna- 
murchan.  After  several  skirmishes,  Sir  Donald 
and  Maclan  met  in  bloody  conflict  at  a  place  called 
Craiganairgid,  in  Morven.  Maclan  and  his  followers 
were  defeated  with  great  slaughter,  while  Maclan 
himself,  and  his  two  sons,  Angus  and  John  Suan- 
artach,  were  found  among  the  slain.  ^  Sir  Donald, 
after  this  victory,  was  again  proclaimed  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  and  many  of  the  Islanders  flocked  to  his 
standard.  The  Regent  and  Council  at  once  took 
measures  to  put  down  the  rebellion,  which  seemed 
now  to  have  assumed  a  more  formidable  appearance 

'  Hugh  Macdouald  iii  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  324. 

326  TflE    CLAN    DONALD. 

than  ever,  and  proposals  were  made  to  have  the 
rebel  of  Lochalsh  forfeited  for  his  treason.  While 
these  preparations  were  going  on,  the  restless  Sir 
Donald  of  Lochalsh  died,  according  to  MacVuirich, 
at  Cairnburgh,  in  Mull,  and  with  him  the  male  line 
of  Celestine  became  extinct.^  The  character  of  Sir 
Donald  Gallda  stands  out  before  us  in  the  sketch  of 
his  brief  career  given  in  this  chapter  as  that  of  a 
bold  and  resolute  clansman,  who  possessed  in  an 
unenviable  degree  the  restless  ambition  and  self- 
assertion  characteristic  of  the  chiefs  of  Clan  Oholla. 
His  residence  at  the  Scottish  Court,  and  the  favours 
bestowed  upon  him  by  the  King,  only  made  this 
scion  of  the  House  of  Isla  more  determined  than 
ever  to  restore  and  maintain  the  ancient  prestige  of 
his  house  against  the  enemies  of  his  race.  Now 
that  through  his  death  the  Lochalsh  confederacy 
was  dissolved,  the  Council  did  not  feel  called  upon 
to  take  any  harsh  proceedings  against  the  rebels, 
and  for  some  vears  to  come  the  Isles  are  free  from 
the  presence  of  a  claimant  to  the  honours  and 
dignities  of  the  House  of  Macdonald. 

^  According  to  Hugh   Macdouald,   Sir  Douald  of  Lochalsh  died  on  the 
Island  of  Teinlipeil,  in  Tu'ee. 



THE  CLAN  DONALD  UNDER  JAMES  V.— 1519-1545. 

Rise  of  the  House  of  Argyle — Bonds  of  Manrent  to  Clan  Donald. 
— Escape  of  James  V.,  and  change  of  Policy. — Troubles  in 
the  North  and  South  Isles. — Donald  (iruamach. — Alexander 
of  Dunnyveg. — Feud  of  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  with  Argyle. — The 
Clan  Maclean  unite  with  Clan  Iain  Mhoir  against  Argyle. — 
Argyle  Invades  Maclean  Territory. — Cawdor's  Proposals  for 
Pacifying  Isles. — Mission  of  Robert  Hart. — Mission  of  Argyle 
and  Murray.— The  King  takes  the  Isles  in  hand. — Alexander 
of  Dunnyveg  Submits. — Argyle's  Disappointment. — Alexander 
of  Dunnyveg's  Indictment. — Argyle's  Disgrace. — Rebellion  of 
Donald  Gorme  of  Sleat. — Siege  of  Ellandonan. — Death  of 
Donald  Gorme. — Royal  Progress  through  Isles. — Captivity  of 
Chiefs. — Death  of  James  V. — Escape  of  Donald  Dubh. — 
Scottish  Parties.  —  Liberation  of  Chiefs. — Donald  Dubh 
Invades  Argyle  and  Lochaber. — Correspondence  with  Henry 
VIII.— Proclamation  against  Rebels. — Donald  Dubh  and 
Eai'l  of  Lennox. — Failure  of  Rebellion. — Death  of  Donald 
Dubh. — Pretensions  of  James  of  Dunnyveg  to  the  Lordship. 
— Abdication  of  Claims. 

Sm  Donald  Gallda  of  Lochalsh,  who  died  in  1519, 
left  no  son,  and  this  house,  so  closely  allied  by  kin 
to  the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  came  to  an  end  in  the  male 
line,  although  the  family  claims  to  the  Earldom  of 
Ross— or  at  least  to  the  representation  of  that  for- 
feited honour — were  perpetuated  by  the  marriage  of 
Sir  Donald's  daughter  with  one  of  the  Glengarry 
chiefs.  Although  one  source  from  which  aspirants 
to  the  old  honours  of  the  Family  of  the  Isles  might 
arise  was  forever  closed,  yet  time  was  to  show  that 
strenuous    efforts    would    not    be    wanting   for   the 

328  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

establishment,  not  only  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles, 
but  of  the  Earldom  of  Ross  as  well. 

For  a  number  of  years  after  the  death  of  Sir 
Donald  Gallda,  the  most  striking  feature  in  the 
history  of  the  Western  Isles  of  Scotland  is  the 
rapid  and  widespread  advance  of  the  power  and 
influence  of  the  House  of  Campbell.  The  principal 
heads  of  that  House,  Colin  Campbell,  Earl  of 
Argyle,  and  his  brothers,  Sir  John  Campbell  of 
Calder  and  Archibald  Campbell  of  Skipness,  were 
exercising  all  the  astuteness  and  political  craft  so 
characteristic  of  the  family,  with  the  view  of  con- 
solidating their  influence  in  those  regions,  North 
and  South,  in  which  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  had  once 
borne  almost  sovereign  sway.  In  1517  Argyle  had 
received  a  Royal  Commission  as  Lieutenant  of  the 
Isles,  and  this  office  involved  the  possession  of 
immense  authority  in  a  quarter  where  the  power  of 
the  central  Government  had  been  exercised  in  a 
spasmodic  and  intermittent  fashion.  Bonds  of  man- 
rent  and  maintenance  were  particularly  rife  at  this 
period  within  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  showing 
that,  with  the  passing  away  of  the  old  order,  society 
in  that  region  being  insufficiently  protected  by  the 
Crown,  souo-ht  to  save  itself  during  the  transition 
to  greater  security  and  a  more  settled  state  of 
things.  In  these  bonds  of  manrent,  both  in  the 
North  and  South  Highlands,  the  Argyle  Family  was 
in  a  preponderance  of  instances  the  superior.  The 
Earl  of  Argyle  received  a  bond  of  manrent  from 
Alexander  Makranald  of  Glengarry  and  North 
Morar,  and  his  brothers  were  equally  indefatigable 
in  establishing  by  similar  means  the  power  and 
position     of     their     House. ^      In      1521,"     Donald 

'  Gregozy,  p.  12G.  -  Tliaues  uf  Cawdor  ad  tcnipus. 


Gruamach,  son  of  Donald  Gailach  of  Dunskaith,  in 
Skye,  and  head  of  the  Clan  Uisdean,  gave  a  bond 
of  manrent  to  Sir  John  Campbell  of  Cawdor.  In 
1520,  Dugall  Makranald  of  Ellantirrim  gives  a  bond 
of  service  to  the  Knight  of  Cav^dor,^  while  in  the  same 
year  his  successor  in  the  command  of  the  Clanranald, 
Alexander  McAllan,  with  his  hand  at  the  pen,  signs 
a  similar  instrument,  undertaking  the  same  kind  of 
engagement.^  In  the  same  year  Alexander  of 
Dunnyveg  signs  a  bond  of  manrent,  gossipry,  and 
service  also  to  Sir  John  Campbell  of  Cawdor.^  It  is 
thus  evident  that  the  House  of  Argyle  was  using 
every  means  that  lay  to  its  hand  for  assuming  the 
functions  and  filling  the  position  left  vacant  by  the 
forfeiture  of  the  Island  Lordship,  while  the  cadet 
families  of  the  fallen  House  of  Isla  were  in  a  measure 
compelled  to  cultivate  the  favour  and  goodwill  of 
these  politic  and  ambitious  chiefs.  It  was  a  time  of 
triumph  for  the  Clan  Campbell,  whose  star  was  now 
steadily  in  the  ascendant,  while  the  Clan  Donald, 
with  the  loss  of  their  ruling  family,  had  fallen  upon 
evil  times  and  evil  tongues,  "  with  danger  and  with 
darkness  compassed  round." 

In  order  to  review  with  clearness  the  progress  of 
events  from  1520  to  1528,  it  may  be  desirable,  in 
the  meantime,  to  pass  on  to  the  latter  year,  in  the 
course  of  which  an  incident  occurred  which  exercised 
a  far-reaching  influence  upon  contemporary  events, 
and  in  the  light  of  which  the  past,  as  well  as  the 
future,  becomes  clearer  to  the  historian's  gaze. 
Previous  to  1528,  James  Y.,  who  was  but  a  child 
of  two  when  his  father  fell  at  Flodden,  had  been 
virtually  a  prisoner  in  the  hands  of  the  Earl  of 
Angus,  who  acted  in  the  capacity  of  Hegent.     In 

^  Thanes  of  Cawdor  ad  tempus.         ^  ibi,j,         3  Jbjd, 

330  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

that  year,  however,  James,  having  attained  to  the 
age  of  seventeen,  succeeded  in  effecting  his  escape, 
and  having  selected  a  new  set  of  Councillors,  the 
policy  of  the  executive  underwent  a  remarkable 
change — a  change,  in  some  respects,  fraught  with 
injurious  effects  to  the  peace  and  prosperity  of  the 
Isles.  During  the  King's  subjection  to  the  power 
of  Angus,  various  grants  of  land  had  been  bestowed 
upon  different  individuals,  no  doubt  for  the  purpose 
of  attaching  them  to  the  party  of  the  E-egent.  The 
Government  that  came  into  power  on  the  King's 
recovery  of  his  freedom  reversed  the  policy  of 
their  predecessors.  They  took  the  view  that 
by  the  prodigality  with  which  these  grants  had 
been  bestowed  the  revenues  of  the  crown  were 
dilapidated  and  the  royal  estate  impoverished. 
Hence  all  gifts  of  land  bestowed  during  the  King's 
minority,  and  while  he  was  unable  to  give  his 
consent,  were  pronounced  null  and  void,  and  it 
was  announced  that  no  further  grants  should  be 
made  without  the  sanction  of  the  King's  Council 
and  of  the  Earl  of  Argyle,  the  King's  Lieutenant 
in  the  Isles. ^  This  change  of  policy,  this  breach 
of  national  faith,  as  it  may  with  justice  be  called, 
was  the  immediate  cause  of  much  discontent  among 
the  Hebrideans.  If,  in  some  instances,  the  reversal 
was  equitable,  the  general  character  of  the  proceed- 
ings was  such  as  to  discredit  the  public  honour 
and  impair  the  confidence  of  the  lieges  in  the 
stability  and  continuity  of  the  national  righteous- 
ness. In  the  Isle  of  Skye,  the  transference  of  the 
district  of  Troternish,  part  of  the  patrimony  of 
the  Clan  Uisdean,  to  the  Siol  Tormoid  branch  of 
the  Clan  Macleod,  was  the  prolific  source  of  strife 

^  CoUectauea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  155. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  331 

and  bloodshed.  In  the  minority  of  James  V.,. 
Macleod  had  received  a  lease  as  crown  tenant  of 
the  lands  in  question,  as  well  as  of  those  of  Sleat 
and  North  Uist,  all  of  which,  since  the  charter  of 
1449,  were  the  undisputed  possessions  of  Hugh, 
son  of  Alexander,  Earl  of  Ross,  and  his  descend- 
ants. By  this  charter — granted  by  John,  Earl  of 
Ross,  and  confirmed  by  the  Crown  in  1495 — the 
Clan  Uisdean  were  rightly  determined  to  abide, 
and  although  John,  Hugh's  son,  had,  in  1498, 
resigned  the  patrimony  of  his  family  in  favour  of 
the  Chief  of  Castle  Tirrim,  the  latter  does  not 
seem  to  have  taken  actual  possession,  and  it  is  not 
strange,  although  the  Sleat  Family  regarded  that 
transaction,  as  well  as  the  Regent  Angus'  later 
grant  to  Macleod,  as  a  usurpation  of  their  just 
and  lawful  rights.  Under  the  leadership  of  Donald 
Gruamach,  and  with  the  aid  of  Torquil  Macleod  of 
Lewis,  half-brother  to  that  chief,  the  Clan  Uisdean 
were  successful  in  expelling  the  Dunvegan  Chief 
and  his  clan  from  Troternish,  and  by  the  same 
forcible  means  prevented  their  taking  possession 
of  the  lands  of  North  Uist  and  Sleat.  Donald 
Gruamach,  on  the  other  hand,  rendered  powerful 
aid  to  John  MacTorquil  in  seizing  the  barony  of 
Lewis,  of  which  his  father  had  been  forfeited  in 
1506,  but  which,  with  the  assistance  of  his  vassals, 
he  was  able  to  hold  during  the  remainder  of  his 

The  grant  of  Troternish,  Sleat,  and  North  Uist 
to  Macleod  of  Dunvegan  was,  with  other  similar 
gifts  bestowed  in  the  minority  of  James  V. ,  revoked  ; 
but  as  these  lands  did  not  revert,  at  anyrate  by 
legal  process,  to  their  hereditary  owners,  the  Clan 

^  Gregory,  p.  131. 

332  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Uisdean,  the  islands  continued  to  be  the  scene  of 
strife  and  discontent.  The  Family  of  Sleat  were 
evidently  regarded  by  the  Government  as  the  lineal 
representatives  of  the  House  of  Isla,  and  the  policy 
of  repression,  so  consistently  adopted  towards  them 
after  the  forfeiture  of  John,  probably  arose  from  the 
suspicion  that,  if  allowed  to  flourish  and  hold  terri- 
torial possessions,  they  might  perchance  at  some 
future  time  endeavour  to  revive  the  ancient  princi- 
pality of  the  Isles.  We  thus  see  the  evils  of  the 
transition  from  the  ancient  order  of  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles  to  the  control  and  authority  of  the  Crown 
at  their  worst  in  the  Isle  of  Skye,  and  the  net  result 
of  the  confusions  of  the  period  as  regards  the  family 
most  nearly  akin  to  the  House  of  Isla  is  found  to  be, 
that  the  powerful  influence  of  the  State  is  employed 
to  withhold  from  them  their  patrimonial  rights,  and, 
after  the  manner  of  their  kinsmen  of  Keppoch,  they 
are  compelled  to  hold  their  lands  by  the  most  ancient 
of  all  instruments  of  tenure,  their  strong  arms  and 
trusty  claymores. 

The  troubles  which  in  the  North  followed  the 
disappearance  of  the  ancient  government  of  the  Isles 
are  also  paralleled  in  the  South  Isles.  The  Chief  of 
Clan  Iain  Mhoir  early  in  the  sixteenth  century  was 
Alexander,  son  of  John  Cathanach,  a  man  who  seems 
to  have  inherited  a  considerable  share  of  the  force  of 
character  and  resolute  independence  characteristic  of 
his  sires,  and  was  destined  to  play  no  inconsiderable 
part  in  the  Highland  politics  of  the  reign  of  James 
V.  By  far  the  greater  portion  of  his  influence  and 
possessions  lay  in  the  Routes  and  Glens  of  Antrim, 
where  he  and  others  of  his  line  often  found  a  welcome 
haven  when  hard  pressed  by  the  Scottish  Power, 
Yet  we  may  be  sure  that  in  his  case,  as  in  that  of 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  333 

other  members  of  his  family,  the  tendrils  of  affection 
clung  tenaciously  to  the  island  home  with  which 
so  many  proud  memories  M^ere  associated,  and  he 
strove  in  the  midst  of  many  difficulties,  which  he 
eventually  overcame,  to  retain  an  interest  in  its  soil. 
In  1528,  we  find  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  in  rebellion 
against  the  Crown.  That  he  and  his  tribe  received 
grants  of  Crown  lands  in  Isla  and  elsewhere  during 
the  minority  of  James  V.,  in  addition  to  the  60 
merklands  which  were  the  patrimony  of  the  Family 
of  Dunnyveg,  seems  sufficiently  well  attested.  That 
portion  of  Isla  and  of  the  other  islands,  which  had 
been  the  immediate  and  direct  property  of  the 
Lords  of  the  Isles,  became,  after  the  forfeiture  in 
1493,  the  legal  property  of  the  Crown,  though  we 
do  not  find  that  these  were  actually  appropriated 
for  many  years  thereafter.  Indeed,  at  the  period  in 
question,  1528,  many  of  these  lands  were  in  the 
possession  of  the  Earl  of  Argyle  and  his  brother,  the 
Thane  of  Cawdor,  but  upon  what  conditions  we 
are  not  able  to  say.  It  is  clear  that  the  House 
of  Argyle  had  the  disposal  of  these  lands  in  1520, 
for  in  a  band  of  gossipry  and  manrent  between 
the  Thane  of  Cawdor  and  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg, 
the  Thane  engages  that,  for  certain  services  he  exacts 
from  the  former,  he  will  give  him  a  grant  of  45 
merklands  in  Isla,  with  the  15  merklands  of  Jura 
and  the  lands  of  Colonsay,  the  same  to  run  for  a 
period  of  five  years. ^  The  indenture  was  made  at 
Glenan  in  the  Taraf,  the  7th  May,  1520.  It  seems 
that  the  bond  of  gossipry  and  manrent  did  not  last 
to  the  end  of  the  five  years  during  which  it  was  to 
run,  and  so  far  as  can  be  judged  from  contemporary 
records,  the  Thane  of  Cawdor  was  to  blame  for  the 

'  Thanes  of  Cawdor, 

334  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

breach  of  peace  and  amity  which  caused  the  pre- 
mature dissolution  of  the  agreement,  for  on  the  15th 
December,  1524,  there  is  a  remission  to  the  Thane  of 
Cawdor  for  having  wasted  the  lands  of  Colonsay,^ 
and  there  seems  to  be  no  indication  that  there  was 
any  aggression  or  violence  on  the  part  of  the  lord  of 
Dunnyveg  to  provoke  the  Thane  to  such  serious 
reprisals.  This  was  the  beginning  of  strained  rela- 
tions between  Alexander  and  the  House  of  Argyle, 
and  subsequent  events  would  have  served  to  intensify 
the  hostility.  Whether  or  not  the  lease  of  Colonsay 
was  renewed  at  the  expiry  of  five  years,  it  seems 
that  it  remained  in  the  Family  of  Dunnyveg,  not- 
withstanding the  policy  of  revoking  grants  which 
the  new  Administration  adopted  in  1528.  When  it 
is  borne  in  mind  that  after  this  date  the  Earl  of 
Argyle  used  all  his  powerful  influence  to  procure  the 
revocation  of  all  grants  from  1513,  the  year  of  the 
King's  accession,  up  to  the  time  he  took  the  reins 
of  Government  into  his  own  hands,  it  is  in  the 
highest  degree  probable  that  Alexander's  quarrel 
with  the  new  order,  and  his  resistance  to  the  policy 
of  the  Government,  would  have  originated  in  some 
attempted  breach  of  public  faith  involved  in  the 
revocation  of  a  grant  of  land,  probably  the  island  of 
Colonsay,  as  already  indicated. 

When  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  is  found  in  1528 
in  arms  against  the  Crown,  or,  to  put  it  more 
correctly,  against  the  Campbell  direction  of  the 
policy  of  the  State,  he  is  receiving  the  hearty  and 
powerful  support  of  the  Clan  Maclean.  This  Clan, 
which  had  grown  in  numbers  and  in  property  under 
the  generous  sway  of  the  Clan  Donald  chiefs,  had 
for  a  long  time  been  on  terms  of  cordial  friendship 

^  Thanes  of  Caw 'or,  1524. 

THE    CLA.N    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  335 

with  the  Clan  Iain  Mhoir,  and  might  not  unnaturally 
be  expected  to  support  them  in  the  time  of  need. 
But  at  this  particular  juncture  the  Macleans  had  a 
feud  of  their  own  with  the  Campbells,  upon  whom, 
if  a  favourable  opportunity  arose,  they  were  deter- 
mined to  wreak  the  most  signal  vengeance. 
Lauchlan  Cattanach,  the  Chief  of  Maclean,  was  one 
of  the  darkest  and  most  repulsive  characters  in  the 
whole  history  of  the  Isles.  The  great  majority  of 
the  Highland  Chiefs,  though  turbulent  and  restless, 
were  seldom  lacking  in  a  certain  chivalrous  gener- 
osity and  honour  measured  by  the  canons  of  their 
day.  Lauchlan  Cattanach  was  a  notable  exception 
to  this  rule.  He  was  selfish  and  treacherous,  as 
well  as  lacking  in  personal  courage,  and  it  needed 
all  the  loyalty  of  the  Clan  to  his  position  as 
hereditary  Chief  to  reconcile  them  to  his  rule,  or 
even  to  refrain  from  deposing  him  from  the  headship 
of  his  race.  There  is  no  one  indeed  who  has  drawn 
his  portrait  in  darker  colours  than  the  partial 
historian  of  his  clan,^  Lauchlan  had  taken  to  wife 
the  Lady  Elizabeth  Campbell,  daughter  of  Archibald, 
second  Earl  of  Argyle.  We  are  not  astonished  to 
find  that  their  tempers  proved  incompatible,  and 
that,  especially  when  no  children  blessed  their  union, 
the  relations  of  the  ill-matched  pair  proved  unhappy 
in  the  extreme.  For  the  romantic  story  which  forms 
the  basis  of  "The  Family  Legend,"  as  well  as  of 
Thomas  Campbell's  ballad  of  "  Glenara,"  we  are 
indebted  to  the  authority  already  referred  to.  It 
was  alleged,  but  altogether  on  insufficient  grounds, 
that  the  Lady  of  Maclean  had  conspired  to  take  her 
husband's  life  by  poison.  The  real  cause  for  his 
desire   to   do  away  with    his    wife    was,   as   future 

^  The  History  of  the  Clan  Macleau,  by  a  Seauuachie,  pp.  25-31, 

336  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

events  were  to  prove,  that  he  conceived  a  violent 
passion  for  the  daughter  of  one  of  his  vassals, 
Maclean  of  Treshnish,  Thus  it  was  that  the  Lady 
of  Dowart  was  one  evening  invited  to  take  an 
excursion  on  the  water  in  a  galley  manned  by  some 
of  the  myrmidons  of  the  Chief,  who  were  cog- 
nisant of  the  dark  secret.  The  unsuspecting  lady 
agreed  to  the  proposal,  but  on  reaching  a  solitary 
rock  two  miles  to  the  east  of  Dowart  Castle,  and  in 
the  direction  of  Lismore,  and  which  was  only 
uncovered  at  half-tide,  she  was  left  there  to  be 
drowned  by  the  advancing  waters.  The  scene  of 
the  intended  murder  is  still  known  as  Creag-na- 
Baintighearn — the  Lady's  Rock.  Fortunately  the 
plot  was  disclosed  by  a  remorseful  conspirator,  and 
before  the  fatality  could  occur,  a  boat  was  launched 
by  some  of  the  Chief's  bodyguard,  who,  rowing 
rapidly  to  the  scene  of  the  outrage,  found  the  victim 
seated  on  the  rock,  with  the  sea  already  beginning 
to  break  over  her,  and  conveyed  her  to  Lorn,  where 
she  was  safely  landed,  and  whence  she  soon  found 
her  way  to  Inverary,  the  residence  of  her  brother 
the  Earl  of  Argyle.  This  incident  was  supposed  to 
have  on'o-inated  the  feud  between  the  Macleans  and 
the  Argyle  Family,  although,  undoubtedly,  it  was 
aggravated  by  the  policy  of  the  Government 
regarding  the  Maclean  possessions  in  the  Isles. 
Vengeance  soon  overtook  the  would-be  murderer. 
Some  time  in  1523^  Lauchlan  Cattanach  was  staying 
over  night  somewhere  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Edin- 
burgh. John  Campbell,  Thane  of  Cawdor,  his 
brother-in-law,  having  become  cognisant  of  his 
whereabouts,  broke  into  his  apartment  under  cover 
of  night,  accompanied  by  a  number  of  his  followers, 

1  Diurnal  of  Occurrents  in  Scotland, 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    V.  33/^ 

and  surprised  and  assassinated  him  in  bed,  and  what 
added  ag-gravation  to  the  bloody  deed  was,  that  the 
Chief  of  Maclean  was  at  the  time  travelling  under  a 
safe  conduct  from  the  Government,  of  which  the 
worthy  Thane  was  regarded  as  a  strenuous  supporter. 
On  the  loth  December  following,  we  find  the  Thane 
exerting  his  influence  successfully  with  the  Govern- 
ment to  obtain  a  remission  for  the  deed,  he  and  his 
accomplices  undertaking  to  make  such  amends  to 
the  friends  of  the  slaughtered  Chief,  as  might  prove 
satisfactory  to  the  authorities.  Though  Lauchlan 
Cattanach  was  very  far  removed  from  being  an  ideal 
character,  or  beloved  chief,  he  was  still  the  head  of 
the  Clan  Maclean,  and  the  fatal  blow  was  felt  as  a 
deadly  insult  by  every  member  of  the  tribe, ^ 

The  foregoing  episode  in  the  history  of  the  Do  wart 
Family  has  been  narrated  here  for  two  reasons. 
First  of  all  it  shows  that,  notwithstanding  the 
wariness  and  political  talent  of  the  Family  that 
had  so  largely  supplanted  the  House  of  Tsla,  the 
feeling  against  them  in  the  Western  Isles,  instead 
of  becoming  favourable,  was  becoming  more  accent- 
uated in  its  bitterness,  acquiring,  in  fact,  a  volume 
and  intensity  which  might  in  time  prove  fatal  to 
their  supremacy.  The  incident  has  also  been 
referred  to  for  the  purpose  of  showing  that  the 
Lord  of  Dunnyveg  was  not  likely  to  be  isolated 
in  any  stand  he  might  propose  to  take  against  the 
selfish  and  aggressive  policy  of  the  Argyles. 

It  was  only  after  several  years  had  elapsed  since 
the  murder  of  Lauchlan  Cattanach,  by  Campbell  of 
Cawdor,  that  a  favourable  opportunity  arose  for 
vengeance.  In  1529  the  Clan  Donald  South  and 
the  Macleans  united  their  forces  against  the  common 

^  Thanes  of  Cawdor  ad  tempus.     Letter  from  Donald  Dubh's  Council. 


338  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

foe.  The  combined  clans  burst  with  fire  and  sword 
into  the  regions  of  Bosneath,  Lennox,  and  Craignish, 
the  records  of  the  time  accusing  the  invaders  of 
having  plundered  and  slain  many  of  the  inhabitants 
of  these  districts.^  The  Clanranald-bane  of  Largie, 
a  Kintyre  branch  of  the  Clan  Donald  South,  were, 
conjointly  with  the  Macdonalds  of  Dunnyveg, 
involved  in  this  invasion.  The  Chief  of  the  Camp- 
bells and  his  vassals^  were  of  course  resentful  of  this 
attack  upon  tlieir  territories,  and  we  find  them  with 
little  delay  having  their  revenge,  not  on  this 
occasion  upon  the  Macdonalds,  but  upon  the 
Macleans,  whose  lands  they  specially  selected  for 
invasion  and  attack.  In  the  same  year — 1529 — 
they  invaded  Morvern  and  the  islands  of  Tiree  and 
Coll,  burning  and  slaying  and  destroying  wherever 
they  went.  For  this  Campbell  raid  there  was  a 
remission  by  Government  on  March  I7th,  1532,  to 
Archibald,  Earl  of  Argyle,  and  eighty-two  others, 
the  King  and  his  Council  having  dispensed  with  the 
General  Act  on  condition  of  the  Earl  satisfying  the 
kin  of  Donald  Ballo  McAuchin,  Donald  Crum 
McCownane,  and  Farquhar  McSevir,  and  others 
having  lawful  claims.^  It  is  evident  that  on  this 
occasion  the  MacCailein  Mor  did  not  act  in  his 
public  capacity  as  the  King's  lieutenant  of  the  Isles, 
or  punish  the  rebellious  and  disloyal  lieges  in  the 
name  of  his  royal  master.  We  look  in  vain  for  that 
lofty  national  spirit  which  their  modern  apologists 
claim  for  the  House  of  Argyle,  and  find  instead 
thereof  the  old-fasliioned  method  characteristic  of 
the  age  and  country. 

In  this  same  year  Sir  John  Campbell,  Thane  of 
Cawdor,   on  behalf  of  his   brother   Colin,    Earl    of 

1  Reg.  Priv.  Seal  IX.,  fol.  18.  -  Ibid. 

^  Pitcairu's  Criminal  Trials,  vol.  IL,  ad  tempus. 

TBE    CLAN    DONALD   UNDER   JAMES    V.  339 

Argyle,  Lieutenant  of  the  Isles  and  the  adjacent 
bounds,  made  certain  j^roposals  to  the  Government 
for  the  suppression  of  the  King's  rebels.  The 
righteous  soul  of  this  single-hearted  patriot  and 
supporter  of  law  and  order,  the  assassin  of  Lauchlan 
Cattanach,  who  had  wasted  and  ravaged  the  island 
of  Colonsay,  and  whose  nephew,  Archibald,  the  heir 
to  the  Earldom,  had  the  same  year  invaded  and 
pillaged  the  country  of  Maclean,  is  greatly  exercised 
at  the  terrible  dispeace  prevailing  in  the  Scottish 
Isles.  Though  he  himself  had  called  up  the  spirits 
of  anarchy  from  the  "  vasty  deep,"  he  stands 
astonished  and  aghast  at  the  result.  He  is 
seized  with  great  searching  of  heart  as  to  the 
best  methods  of  producing  social  tranquillity,  and 
yearns  to  sacrifice  himself  upon  the  altar  of 
Scottish  nationality  by  offering  to  bring  these 
disturbed  regions  in  subjection  to  the  Crown. 
Inspired  by  such  a  patriotic  resolve,  this  scion  of 
the  House  of  Argyle  made  certain  proposals  to 
the  King,  which  were  undoubtedly  of  a  thorough 
and  adequate  nature.  He  suggested  tliat  the 
house-holders  of  Dumbartonshire  and  Henfrew- 
shire,  and  of  the  bailiaries  of  Carrick,  Kyle, 
and  Cunningham,  should  be  ordered  to  assemble 
at  Lochranza,  in  Arran,  with  victuals  for  twenty 
days,  to  meet  the  Earl  of  Argyle  and  assist  him 
in  his  efforts  to  reduce  the  Isles  to  order. ^  It 
soon  appeared,  however,  that  whatever  confidence 
the  King  and  his  Council  may  once  have  reposed 
in  the  public  spirit  and  disinterestedness  of  the 
Argyle  Family,  they  were  now  beginning  to  regard 
with  suspicion  their  professions  of  zeal  for  the 
service    of    the    country.       As   a   matter   of   fact, 

^  Gregory,  p.  13^. 

340  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

jealousy  of  the  rapid  rise  and  increasing  power  of 
the  Chiefs  of  Inverary  animated  the  breasts  of 
many  members  of  the  Council,  and  the  tendency 
towards  self  advancement,  which  sometimes  became 
visible  through  the  vail  of  vaunted  patriotism, 
was  gradually  being  unfolded  to  the  vision  of 
the  young  King.  It  was  also  felt  on  all  hands 
that  the  lieutenancy  of  the  Western  Highlands 
and  Islands,  in  itself  a  position  of  commanding 
influence,  was  in  danger  of  becoming  hereditary 
in  the  Family  of  Argyle,  as  public  ofiices  in  these 
days  had  a  distinct  tendency  to  become  ;  and,  still 
further,  that  if  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  had 
proved  dangerous  to  the  well-being  of  the  State 
in  the  past,  this  new  office  of  Lieutenant,  for  the 
very  reason  that  in  form  it  was  constitutional  and 
responsible,  might  be  fraught  with  greater  peril 
to  the  commonwealth  if  its  powers  were  wielded 
in  the  interests  of  one  aggressive  and  ambitious 
House.  Hence,  when  the  policy  of  Sir  John 
Campbell  was,  in  the  first  instance,  unfavourably 
viewed  by  those  in  power,  there  was  witnessed  the 
faint  beginning  of  a  rift  in  the  lute,  which,  by 
and  bye,  might  assume  larger  and  more  dangerous 
proportions,  and  those  who  cast  the  horoscope  of 
the  future  might  well  and  safely  predict  that  the 
sun  of  Argyle,  which  had  long  been  unclouded, 
was  soon  to  suffer  a  temporary  eclipse. 

The  first  step  resolved  on  by  the  King  indicated 
that  a  wiser  and  a  more  discriminating  policy  was 
now  to  be  adopted  towards  the  Western  Isles  than 
that  which  had  hitherto  prevailed.  It  was  decided 
that,  instead  of  endeavouring  to  pacify  the  Isles  by 
aggressive  military  opeiations,  a  Herald  or  Puisuiv- 
ant  should    be  entrusted  with    a  mission   to  treat 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  341 

with  the  Western  Chiefs,  with  special  reference  to 
Alexander  of  Dunn}'veg.^  This  Herald,  whose 
name  was  Robert  Hart,  was  despatched  on  3rd 
August,  1529,  and  the  following  is  the  Resolution 
of  the  Lords  of  Council  in  accordance  with  which 
he  was  sent  upon  his  mission  :— • 

"  Anent  the  articulis  and  desiris  proponit  and  gevin  in  be  Sir 
Johnne  of  Calder,  Knight,  in  name  and  behalfF  of  Colyne  Erie  of 
Ergile  for  suppleing  of  him  in  the  resisting  and  persute  of  the 
Kingis  rebellis  inhabitantis  the  Ilis  makand  insurrectionis  aganes 
oure  Soverane  Lord  and  his  auctoritie  quhilk  may  returne  to 
displeasour  of  the  hale  cuntre  nixt  adjacent  to  the  bordouris  of 
the  Ilis,  without  provisioun  and  gude  ordoure  be  put  thairin  dew 
tyme,  and  for  remeid  thairof,  it  is  divisit,  concludit,  and  ordanit 
as  efter  followis, — 

"  Item  it  is  thocht  expedient  be  the  saidis  Lordis  that  thar  be 
ane  offic.'ar  of  armis  that  is  of  wisdom  and  discretioun  send  to 
M'^Kynmont  and  his  complices  ....  The  said  officiar  of 
armis  to  have  this  discretioun,  in  the  first  to  charge  the  said 
Allestar  and  his  complices  to  desist  and  ceis  fra  all  convocatioun 
or  gaddering  for  the  invasioun  of  our  Soverane  Lordis  leiges,  bot 
he  reddely  ansuer  and  obey  to  our  Soverane  Lord  and  his  Lieu- 
tenant under  the  payne  of   tresone Item  the  said 

ofiBciar  sail  have  commissioun  and  power  of  the  Kingis  Graice  to 
commone  with  the  said  Allestar  upoun  gud  wais  and  gif  the  said 
Allestar  plesis  to  cum  to  the  Kingis  Graice  to  gif  him  assuirauce 
to  pas  and  repas  with  ane  certane  nomer  he  beand  content  to  gif 
plegis  of  Lawland  men  for  keping  of  gud  reule  and  till  obey  the 
King  and  pay  him  his  malis  anr)  dewiteis  of  sic  landis  as  his 
Graice  sail  gif  to  the  said  Allestar." 

In  due  time  Robert  Hart  returned  from  his 
mission  in  the  Isles  ;  but  whether  it  was  that  the 
Chiefs  were  obdurate,  or  that  Argyle  was  then,  as 
afterwards,  acting  a  double  part,  his  report  upon 
the  attitude  of  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  towards 
the  Crown  was  in  the  highest  degree  unsatisfactory. 
Whatever  influences  operated  against  the  submission 

^  Acts  of  Lords  of  Council,  XL.,  fol.  80. 

342  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  the  Islanders,  the  assertion  of  the  authority  of 
the  King  seemed  so  far  productive  of  Httle  good. 
The  Council  thereupon  decided  upon  taking  more 
stringent  action  ;  but  it  is  evident  from  surviving 
records  that  they  were  resolved  to  exercise  due 
caution  and  deliberation.  Argyle's  oifer  for  the 
reduction  of  the  South  Isles  to  order  was  accepted, 
while  similar  proposals  by  the  Earl  of  Murray  for  the 
pacification  of  the  North  Isles  were  likewise  ordered 
to  be  carried  into  effect.  The  Lieutenant  of  the 
Isles  was  to  direct  special  attention  to  Alexander 
of  Dunnyveg,  the  most  powerful  and  outstanding  of 
the  Island  Chiefs,  who  apparently  took  the  leading 
stand  against  the  proceedings  of  the  Government. 
The  following  is  an  extract  from  the  Decree  of  the 
Lords  of  Council  upon  the  failure  of  Robert  Hart's 
mission  : — 

"  Anent  the  articulis  send  to  Alester  Canoch  with  Robert  Hart 
pursevaut,  and  the  respons  of  the  saidis  articulis  schawin  be  the 
said  Robert  to  tlae  Lordis  of  Counsale,  and  thai,  beand  avisit 
thairwith  at  lenth,  has  concludit  and  thocht  expedient  that  the 
Erie  of  Ergile,  Lieuetenent  of  the  His  and  boundis  adjacent  thairto 
sail  pas  forthwart  into  the  His  and  to  persew  the  said  Alester  and 
all  utheris  inobedient  liegis  to  the  Kingis  Hienes  taking  of  thair 
houses  and  strenthis  and  for  punyssing  of  trespassoris,  ordouring 
of  the  boundis  of  the  His  and  putting  of  tha  pairtis  to  pece  and 
rest,  and  to  subject  thame  to  the  Kingis  obedience  and  lawis  of 
the  realme  efter  the  forme  and  tenour  of  the  commissioun  direct 
to  him  thairupoun." 

The  Decree  of  the  Lords  of  Council  contained  full 
provision  for  accomplishing  the  ends  shadowed  forth 
in  the  foregoing  extract.  A  roll  of  the  tenants  of 
the  Isles  was  placed  in  Argyle's  hands,  with  a 
citation  that  they  should  all  come  into  the  King's 
presence  in  order  "  to  commune  with  His  Majesty 
upon  good   rule  in   the   Isles,"     All  were  inhibited 


from  rendering  any  assistance  to  the  rebels,  or 
calling  the  King's  lieges  together  for  oftensive  pur- 
poses, under  pain  of  death.  The  fighting  men  of 
Perth  and  Forfar,  and  of  the  South  of  Scotland 
generally,  were  summoned  to  meet  the  King  at  Ayr, 
with  provisions  for  forty  days,  to  accompany  him  on 
his  expedition  to  the  Isles.  The  men  of  Carrick, 
Kyle,  Cunningham,  Eenfrew,  Dumbartonshire,  Bal- 
quhidder,  Braidalbane,  Kannoch,  Apuadill,  Athole, 
Menteith,  Bute  and  Arran  were  charged  to  join  the 
King's  Lieutenant  at  such  places  as  he  should 
appoint,  and  to  continue  with  him  in  the  service  for 
a  month.  The  burghs  of  Ayr,  Irvine,  Glasgow, 
Renfrew,  and  Dumbarton  were  to  send  boats  for 
victualling  his  army,  all  of  which  were  to  be  paid  for 
out  of  the  Royal  revenues.  Protection  was  offered 
to  the  Islesmen,  in  case  they  should  fear  to  trust 
themselves  to  the  tender  mercy  of  the  Lowlanders, 
and  especially  of  the  Campbells,  and  this  protection 
was  to  endure  for  thirty  days,  an  additional  period 
being  allowed  them  for  returning  home.^  Not  only 
so,  but  the  King  promised  to  take  hostages  from  the 
Earl  of  Argyle  for  further  security  of  the  Island 
Chiefs,  Duncan  Campbell  of  Glenurchy,  Archibald 
Campbell  of  Auchinbreck,  Archibald  Campbell  of 
Skipnish,  and  Duncan  Campbell  of  Llangerig  being 
proposed  as  a  list  out  of  which  any  two  might  be 
selected  for  confinement  in  Edinburgh  Castle  until 
the  Islanders  were  safely  back  to  their  sea-girt 

While  the  commission  given  to  Argyle  to  pass 
into  the  Isles  was  intended  to  be  put  in  action 
without  delay,  it  does  not  appear  that  the  materials 
for  its  execution  were    placed   immediately  in    his 

1  Acts  of  Lords  of  Council,  XLI.,  fol.  77.         -  Ibid.,  fol.  79, 

344  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

hands.  The  King  and  his  Council  seemed  still  to 
entertain  some  hopes  of  a  peaceful  solution  of  the 
Island  problem.  Orders  were  given  to  provide  the 
Lieutenant  of  the  Isles  with  a  cannon,  two  falconets, 
and  three  barrels  of  gunpowder,  with  other  con- 
veniences for  his  expedition ;  but  it  was  agreed 
to  delay  the  calling  out  of  the  levies  until  it  was 
seen  how  Argyle  sped  in  his  mission,  and  "  becaus 
the  harvest  occurs  now  and  uther  greit  imped i- 
mentis."^  It  is  also  very  certain  that  suspicions 
regarding  Argyle's  good  faith  were  growing  apace. 
In  addition  to  all  this,  an  indefinite  postponement 
of  the  expedition  was  caused  by  the  illness  of  the 
Earl  of  Argyle,  and  his  death  in  1530,  and  although 
his  son  Archibald  succeeded  him  in  all  his  offices 
and  honours,  the  circumstances  were  unfavourable 
to  immediate  and  decisive  action. 

It  was  not  until  the  early  months  of  1531  that 
Archibald,  the  new  Earl  of  Argyle,  along  with  the 
Earl  of  Murray,  went  upon  their  mission  for  the 
reduction  of  the  Hebrides.  The  former  nobleman, 
previous  to  his  departure,  gave  abundant  proof  to 
the  King  and  Council  tliat  he  possessed  the  energy 
and  ambition,  with  probably  no  small  share  of  the 
unscrupulous  character,  of  his  predecessors.  He 
gave  an  undertaking  that  he  would  carry  out  his 
commission  with  the  most  unsparing  thoroughness. 
He  would  insist  upon  the  inhabitants  taking  their 
lands  in  lease  from  the  King,  and  upon  the  regular 
and  punctual  payment  of  the  Crown  rents  into  the 
royal  treasury ;  and,  if  opposition  were  offered,  he 
undertook  to  destroy  the  recusants  root  and  branch, 
and  to  bring  the  Isles  eventually  to  a  condition  of 
peace  and  order.     He,  at  the  same  time,  requested 

1  Acts  of  Lords  of  Council,  XLL,  fol.  80. 


dccti>^^t-  ^f  ^^  A^of^]  imcj  -dtm^  corW^fe  /cUdv^cvj  &i/f^u^>, 

^c>fH4i  ^tM^/'Vc^mtrU-  rU\iMfHii^i>)  m^H-.v  fri\f(\t\  '-orfmu^  <ytcUvmi  (('i^ifvHviu 
^>fi^H^YOpHHH  o^Wfvi /cvm/wf^  '^C^KAJk  CAWrt  <-o^HyTvmAvn^ /f n-o*;  c^ 
t<^l*vo«  ^/wfirf*  ^(Mrmtj  ^Jioym^  At  ^i^wn/^Hi(^r*</i4cn^TmX  aTc(fcM-<W^ 

&>Ww  ej(^ .'m^ivrw*)  jlrpYimu^  -wincxo^YMi^,    cmk^ms  Ctf*u  <\t^vuiQt^  ybvi-  • 




that  the  commission  of  Lieutenandry  which  his 
father  had  possessed  should  be  bestowed  upon  him, 
and  that  he  should  at  all  times  be  consulted  by  the 
Council  of  State  as  to  any  steps  that  might  be 
deemed  necessary  to  take  in  dealing  with  the 
Western  Isles. ^  After  having  submitted  these 
proposals — not  unduly  modest  in  their  tone — the 
new  Earl  of  Argyle,  armed  with  the  royal  commis- 
sion, proceeded  on  his  way. 

The  evoDts  that  followed  will  be  better  under- 
stood when  it  is  borne  in  mind  that  the  missions 
both  of  the  Earls  of  Argyle  and  Murray,  the  former 
in  the  South. and  the  latter  in  the  North  Isles,  were 
conducted  under  the  immediate  and  vigilant  super- 
vision of  the  King.  It  was  resolved  that  James 
should  proceed  in  person  against  the  rebels  on  the 
1st  June,  1531,  and  from  that  moment  there 
emerges  a  new  and  happier  relationship  between  the 
Islesmen  and  the  Crown. 

The  Macdonald  Chiefs,  like  the  other  vassals  of 
the  Isles,  were  during  the  early  part  of  summer  of 
this  year  repeatedly  cited  to  the  royal  presence. 
On  the  28th  April,  Parliament  met  in  Edinburgh, 
and  John  Cathanachson,  Donald  Gruamach,  John 
Moydartach,  Alexander  Maclan  of  Ardnamurchan — 
who  seems  to  have  grown  weary  of  being  an  under- 
study of  Argyle  —  Alister  of  Glengarry,  Donald 
McAllister  McRanaldbane  of  Largie,  were  all  sum- 
moned, and  not  appearing,  the  citation  was  renewed 
till  26th  May.^  We  are  particularly  informed  that 
the  first-named  in  the  foregoing  list,  Alexander  of 
Dunnyveg,  or  John  Cathanachson,  as  he  was  some- 
times called,  received  a  respite  under  the  privy  seal 

1  Acts  of  the  Lords  of  CouncU,  XLII.,  fol.  186. 
^  Acts  of  Scottish  Parliament,  vol.  II.,  p.  333. 

346  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

for  himself  and  his  household,  men  and  servants,  to 
the  number  of  thirty  persons,  to  come  to  the  King's 
presence  and  return  again  to  the  Isles  in  safety. 
After  the  expiry  of  some  weeks,  the  royal  summons 
is  responded  to.  On  former  occasions  the  pro- 
ceedings for  the  pacification  of  the  Islesmen  were 
under  the  immediate  direction  of  those  whose 
interest,  and  consequently  whose  wishes  had  lain, 
not  in  the  tranquillity  of  the  Isles,  but  in  such 
chronic  disaffection  and  dispeace  as  would  prove  the 
ruin  of  the  Western  Chiefs,  and  the  consequent 
advancement  of  the  House  of  Argyle.  The  Lord 
of  Dunnyveg,  recognising  that  the  King  was  dis- 
posed to  deal  with  the  Hebridean  chiefs  on 
honourable  and  generous  terms,  resolved  to  make 
his  submission,  On  the  7th  June  he  came  to 
Stirling,  and  on  certain  conditions  received  the 
royal  pardon.  The  Act  of  Council  recording  the 
negotiations  is  in  the  following  terms  : — 

"  It  is  the  Kingis  Graice  mynd,  with  avise  of  the  Lordis  of  his 
Counsale,  that  Alexander  John  Canochsoun,  becaus  he  hes  cumin 
to  our  said  Soverane  Lord  and  ofFerit  his  service  in  his  maist 
liuimle  maner  like  as  in  certane  articulis  gevin  in  be  him  to  the 
lordis  of  Counsale  thairupoun  is  contenit,  and  refFerit  him  hale  in 
the  Kingis  will.  Thairfor  it  plesis  his  Hienes  to  give  to  the  said 
Alexander  the  profFetis  of  the  landis  contenit  in  his  privie  sele 
gevin  to  him  of  befoir  be  his  Hienes  be  the  avise  of  the  Duke  of 
Albany  his  tutour  for  the  tyme,  insofar  as  pertenis  to  the  Kingis 
Grace  in  propirte  Avithin  the  boundis  of  Kintyr  or  ony  pairtis  of 
the  His  during  the  Kingis  will,  and  for  his  gude  service  to  be  done 
to  his  Hienes  in  eschewing  of  trouble  and  in  quietation  of  the 
Kingis  lieges  and  heirschip  of  the  cuntrie,  and  for  the  helping  of 
our  soverane  Lordis  Chalmerlanys  to  be  maid  be  his  Grace  for 
inbringing  of  our  said  Soverane  Lordis  malis,  profFettis  and 
dewiteis  of  the  His  and  Kyntyr  as  he  sal  be  requirit,  and  als  to 
solist  and  cans  at  his  power  all  the  heidsmen  and  clannys  of  the 
His  and  Kintyr  and  to  cum  to  the  Kingis  obedience  and  gude 
reule  of  the  cuntre  and  for  sur  payment  of  the  malis  and  profFetjs 

TEE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  347 

of  his  landis  in  the  His  and  Kyutyr  intromettit  ^Yith  be  thame ; 
provydant  that  the  said  Alexander  sail  put  to  fredome  all 
pi'isoneris  that  he  lies  pertenand  to  the  Erie  of  Ergile  and  utheris 
and  sail  on  no  wis  assist  (or)  fortifie  John  McClane  of 
in  assegeing  of  his  hous  nor  hereing  of  his  landis,  but  sail  stop  the 
same  at  his  utter  power,  and  sail  fortify  and  kepe  the  Kirknien  in 
thair  fredome  and  privilegis,  and  caus  thame  to  be  ausuerrit  of 
thair  landis  malis  fermis  and  dewiteis  thairof." 

In  the  foregoing  conditions  of  pardon,  acknow- 
ledgment is  made  of  Alexander's  powerful  influence 
among  the  Islesmen,  which  he  is  called  upon  to 
exercise  for  the  promotion  of  law  and  order,  and  in 
proof  of  this  we  find  that  on  the  same  day,  not  only 
the  cadets  of  the  House  of  Isla  but  other  vassals  of 
the  Isles  follow  the  example  of  the  Lord  of  Dunny- 
veg,  and  on  making  their  submission  to  the  King 
are  immediately  received  into  royal  favour.  Thus  it 
came  about  that  while  the  Earls  of  Argyle  and 
Murray  were  cruising  among  the  Western  Isles, 
probably  doing  more  to  stir  up  disaffection  than  to 
create  loyalty,  the  rebellion  came  to  an  end  through 
the  direct  intervention  of  the  King.  By  a  com- 
bination of  firmness  and  generosity,  and  by  personal 
intercourse  with  the  Islesmen,  James  brought  about 
in  a  few  days  a  condition  which  years  of  Argyle's 
lieutenandry  had  only  served  to  render  more  remote. 
Had  James'  life  been  spared  for  even  a  few  years 
longer  than  the  date  of  his  sad  demise,  and  had  he 
and  his  successors  continued  to  apply  to  the  problem 
of  the  Isles  the  same  wise  and  patient  policy,  the 
future  history  of  that  region  could  have  been 
delineated  in  brighter  and  more  glowing  hues. 

The  tranquillity  of  the  Isles  and  the  submission 
and  pardon  of  the  Cliiefs  were  far  from  being  a 
pleasing  spectacle  to  the  Earl  of  Argyle,  who  found 
a  very  unexpected  state  of  matters  awaiting  him  on 

348  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

his  return  from  his  Hebridean  tour.  The  turn  of 
affairs  was  so  thoroughly  satisfactory  from  a  pubhc 
point  of  view  that  Othello's  occupation  was  mean- 
while gone.  Finding  that  the  remission  granted  to 
the  Islesmen  by  the  King  had  placed  them  completely 
beyond  his  power,  he  did  all  he  could  to  exasperate 
and  annoy  them  and  to  kindle  anew  the  expiring 
flame  of  disloyalty.  The  raids  of  1529  into  the 
territories  of  Argyle  are  once  more  raked  up  against 
the  Macdonalds  and  Macleans,  although  these  had 
been  wiped  away  by  the  pardon  of  7th  June,  1531. 
The  noble  Earl,  besides,  seems  to  have  forgotten  his 
own  invasion  and  wasting  of  the  lands  of  Morvern 
and  others  in  that  same  year,  or,  if  he  remembered 
these  things,  he  acted  as  if  on  the  principle  that — 

"  That  in  the  captain's  bnt  a  choleric  word 
Which  in  the  soldier  is  flat  blasphemy." 

The  immediate  result  of  the  Earl's  proceedings  in 
this  matter  was,  that  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  and 
himself  both  received  a  remission  for  the  violent 
conduct  of  which  they  had  been  guilty  in  1529, 
although,  in  the  case  of  the  latter,  the  neces- 
sity for  such  a  remission  does  not  in  the  circum- 
stances seem  clear.\  The  action  of  the  Earl  in 
these  matters,  however,  proved  eventually  disastrous 
to  himself.  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  unhesitatingly 
appeared  in  response  to  the  summons  issued  to  him 
at  the  instigation  of  his  grace  of  Argyle  ;  but  when 
the  day  appointed  arrived,  the  accuser  found  it  con- 
venient to  cultivate  the  privacy  of  Inverary  Castle. 
Indeed,  the  tables  were  completely  turned  upon  this 
magnate,  who,  with  the  cadets  of  his  house,  had 
evidently  come  to  regard  the  Western  Isles  as  their 

'■  Pitcaii'u's  Criminal  Trials  ad  iem^us. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES   V.  349 

own  special  preserve.  His  accusations  were  met  by 
a  statement  from  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg,  in  which 
he  not  only  vindicates  triumphantly  his  own  position 
since  his  restoration  to  Royal  favour,  but  puts  the 
King's  Lieutenant  completely  in  the  wrong.  The 
statement  has  such  an  important  bearing  upon  the 
Clan  Donald  history  of  the  period  that  we  shall  quote 
it  here  in  full  : — 

"Statement  by  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  anent  certain 
Complaints  preferred  against  him  by  the  Earl  of 
"  In  presence  of  the  Lords  of  Council  compeared  Alexander 
John  Cathanachson,  and  gave  in  the  articles  underwritten,  and 
desired  the  same  to  be  put  in  the  books  of  Council ;  of  the  which 
the  tenor  follows: — My  Lords  of  Council,  unto  your  Lordships 
huimlie  menis  and  schawis  I,  your  servitor  Alexander  John 
Cathanachson,  that  quhar  lately  Archd.  Earl  of  x\rgyle  of  verray 
prover  malice  and  envy  gave  in  ane  bill  of  complaint  of  me  to 
your  Lordships,  alLging  that  1  had  done  divers  and  sundry  great 
faults  to  him  and  his  friends,  which  is  not  of  veritie  ;  for  the 
which  your  Lurdships  commanded  me  by  ane  maiser  to  remain  in 
this  town  to  answer  to  his  complaints.  And  1  have  remained  here 
continually  tlu'-se  13  days  last  by  past  daily  to  answer  to  his  said 
bill  ;  and  because  he  perfectly  knows  that  his  narration  is  not  nor 
may  not  be  proved  of  veritie,  he  absents  himself  and  bydis  away 
and  wall  not  come  to  follow  the  same.  And  since  so  is  that  that 
his  narration  is  all  wrong  and  feynyeit  made  upon  me  without  any 
fault  of  very  malice  as  said  is  as  manifestly  appears,  because  he 
will  not  come  to  pursue  and  verify  the  same,  I  answer  to  the  points 
of  his  bill  in  this  wise — In  the  first,  I  understand  that  no  person 
has  jurisdiction  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  but  my  master  the 
King's  grace  alanerly.  And  insafer  as  his  highness  gave  command 
and  power  to  my  sympilnes  at  my  first  incoming  to  his  grace  at 
Stirling,  I  have  obeyed  and  done  his  highness's  commands  in  all 
points  and  fulfilled  the  tenor  of  all  his  acts  made  in  Stirling  in 
every  point  as  I  was  commanded.  And  gif  it  please  his  grace  to 
command  me  to  give  his  malis  and  duties  of  his  lands  and  Lord- 
ship of  the  Isles  to  any  person,  the  same  shall  be  done  thankfully 
after  my  power.  And  in  sa  fer  as  the  said  Earl  alleged  that  1  did 
wrong  in  intromittiug  and  uptaking  of  the  malis  and  dewities  of 

350  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

the  Isles,  he  failyeit  thairin,  because  I  did  nothing  in  that  behalf 
but  as  I  was  commanded  by  the  King's  grace,  my  master. 

"  Further,  my  Lords,  I  at  your  Lordships'  command  has 
remained  in  this  town  thir  days  last  by  past  ready  to  answer  to 
the  said  Earl  in  anything  he  had  to  lay  to  my  charge  to  my  great 
cost  and  expense.  He  as  I  am  informed  is  past  in  the  Isles  with 
all  the  folks  that  he  may  get  and  wdth  all  the  men  that  the  Earl 
of  Murray  may  cause  pass  with  him  for  heirschip  and  destruction 
of  the  King's  lands  of  the  Isles  and  for  slaughter  of  his  poor  lieges 
dwelling  therein ;  which  as  I  trust  is  done  without  his  grace's 
advice,  license,  authority  or  consent.  And  if  so  be  the  whole  fault 
is  made  to  his  highness  considering  both  the  land  and  the  men 
and  the  inhabitants  thereof  are  his  own  ;  and  Avell  it  is  to  be 
presumed  that  his  grace  woiald  give  no  command  to  destroy  his 
own  men  and  lands.  And  if  the  King's  grace  my  sovereign  Lord 
and  Master  will  give  power  or  command  to  me  or  any  other 
gentleman  of  the  Isles  to  come  to  his  highness  to  pass  in  England 
in  oisting  or  any  other  part  in  the  mainland  within  this  realm,  I 
shall  make  good  we  shall  bring  more  good  fighting  men  to  do  his 
grace  honour,  pleasure,  and  service  than  the  said  Earl  shall  do. 

"And,  if  the  said  Earl  will  contempne  the  King's  grace's 
authority  his  highness  giving  command  to  me  and  his  poor  lieges 
of  the  Isles,  we  shall  cause  compel  the  said  Earl  to  dwell  in  any 
other  part  of  Scotland  nor  Argyle,  where  the  King's  grace  may  get 
resoun  of  him. 

"  And  further,  there  is  no  person  in  the  Isles  that  has  offended 
to  the  said  Earl  or  any  others  in  the  Lowlands  but  I  shall  cause 
him  to  come  to  the  King's  grace  to  underly  his  laws  and  to  please 
his  highness  and  the  party  be  ressoun,  suchlike  as  other  Lowland 
men  does,  the  brokynes  and  heirschip  of  the  Isles  being  considered 
made  by  the  said  Earls  father,  the  Knight  of  Calder,  and  Gillespy 
Bane  his  brother. 

"And  mairattour,  what  the  King's  grace  and  your  Lordship 
will  command  me  to  do  for  his  highness  honour  and  weal  of  his 
realm  the  same  shall  be  done  with  all  diligence  of  my  power 
without  my  dissimulation. 

"And  further,  my  Lords,  I  have  fulfilled  your  lordships' 
command  and  bidden  aye  in  this  town  and  kept  the  day  that  your 
Lordships  assigned  to  me  to  answer  to  the  said  Earl's  complaint 
and  that  he  came  not  to  follow  the  same,  that  ye  will  advertise 
the  King's  grace  thereof,  and  of  my  answer  to  his  complaint,  and 
give  command  to  the  Clerk  of  Council  to  subscribe  the  copy  of  my 


answer  here  present  to  be  sent  to  the  King's  grace  for  information 
to  his  highness  of  the  veritie.  And  your  answer  humbly  I 

The  statement  just  quoted  was  certainly  not 
lacking  in  boldness  and  self-confidence,  and  its 
honesty  and  candour,  and  the  unshrinking  desire 
it  manifests  that  the  whole  issue  should  be  strictly 
investigated,  contrasts  most  favourably  with  the 
evasive  conduct  of  Argyle.  The  undertaking  to 
compel  his  Grace  of  Inverary  to  retire  into  a  more 
remote  place  of  residence  affords  refreshing  evidence 
of  a  desire  on  the  part  of  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg 
to  come  to  close  quarters  with  the  enemy  of  his 
House.  The  King  seems  to  have  been  deeply  struck 
by  Alexander's  indictment,  and  with  characteristic 
sense  of  justice  caused  a  minute  enquiry  to  be  made 
into  its  leading  allegations,  as  well  as  into  the  whole 
question  of  tlie  Argyle  policy  in  the  Isles,  which  the 
statement  directly  impugned.  The  result  was  a 
repetition  of  the  story  of  Haman  and  Mordecai ;  a 
case  of  the  biter  bit.  Argyle  sank  in  the  pit  he 
made  for  others,  in  the  net  which  he  hid  was  his 
own  foot  taken.  Alexander  of  Dunnyveg  was 
triumphantly  vindicated.  It  was  clearly  brought 
out  that  the  policy  of  the  Argyle  Family  in  the 
Isles  had  been  animated  by  motives  of  private 
interest  rather  than  by  zeal  for  the  peace  and 
welfare  of  His  Majesty's  lieges  in  that  part 
of  his  dominions,  and  that  they  were  largely  to 
blame  for  fomenting  much  of  the  turbulence  and 
disaifection  which  had  arisen  within  recent  years. 
Still  further  it  was  brought  out  that  Argyle's 
intromissions  with  the  Crown  rentals  were  not  so 
advantageous  to  the  royal  revenues  as  with  strictly 
honest    accounting    they   should   have    been.       The 



Earl  was  thrown  into  prison,  and  although  his 
liberation  soon  followed,  he  was  discredited  and 
disgraced,  while  the  public  offices  he  filled  were 
all  taken  from  him,  and  some  of  them  bestowed 
upon  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg,  who  continued, 
during  the  reign  of  James  Y,,  to  receive  numerous 
marks  of  royal  favour.  From  the  Clan  Donald 
point  of  view,  the  pleasing,  but  in  those  days  the 
unwonted,  spectacle  is  witnessed  of  the  head  of 
a  great  branch  of  the  Family  of  the  Isles  high  in 
confidence  of  the  Crown,  while  the  Chief  of  the 
Clan  Campbell  has  to  retire  into  obscurity  and 


From  1532  down  to  1538  the  history  of  the 
Western  Isles  appears  to  have  been  quiet  and 
uneventful ;  at  anyrate  the  surviving  records  of 
the  age  have  little  to  say  regarding  the  history  of 
the  Macdonald  Family,  a  clear  vindication  of  the 
methods  of  governing  the  Highlands  adopted  by 
James  V.    and   his  advisers.     The   problem   of  the 


Hebridean  dans,  especially,  proved  not  hopelessly 
insoluble  when  approached  in  a  spirit  of  generosity 
and  firmness ;  while,  looked  at  through  Argyle 
spectacles,  and  treated  in  the  tortuous  methods  of 
Argyle  policy,  it  was  a  standing  menace  to  the 
peace  of  Scotland.  In  1539,  however,  the  Isle  of 
Skye  and  the  western  border  of  Koss-shire  became 
the  scene  of  a  fresh  attempt  to  restore  the  lordship 
of  the  Isles  and,  to  all  appearance,  also  the  Earldom 
of  Ross. 

It  was  the  universal  belief  in  the  Western  Isles, 
and  there  seems  little  reason  to  doubt  that  the 
feeling  was  well  founded,  that  the  real  heir  to 
the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  the  unfortunate 
Donald  Dubh,  who  since  1506  pined  in  solitary 
confinement  as  a  State  prisoner  in  Edinburgh 
Castle.  His  claims  to  the  Earldom  of  Hoss  were 
by  no  means  so  clear.  The  Charter  of  1476,  in 
which  Angus  Og  and  his  issue  were  legitimised, 
was  granted  after  the  forfeiture  of  the  Earldom  of 
Ross,  and  the  succession  of  John's  descendants  was 
legalised  only  so  far  as  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles 
was  concerned.  Hence,  although  Donald  Dubh  was, 
undoubtedly,  the  lineal  heir  to  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles,  it  could  not  be  contended  with  the  same 
degree  of  confidence  that  he  represented  any 
hereditary  right  to  the  Earldom  of  Ross — all  the 
more  because  this  dignity  had  come  into  the  Family 
of  the  Isles  not  as  a  Celtic  but  as  a  feudal  honour. 
In  any  case,  seeing  that  Donald  Dubh  was 
apparently  a  prisoner  for  life,  there  was  only  one 
family  akin  to  the  main  stem  of  the  House  of 
Macdonald  that  could  lay  just  claim  to  represent 
the  combined  dignities  of  both  Earldom  and  Lord- 
ship.    Now^  that  the  Family  of  Lochalsh  had  become 


354  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

extinct  in  the  male  line,  the  succession  to  the  who.e 
honours  of  the  House  of  Isla — as  regards  descent — 
appeared  to  devolve  upon  the  Family  of  Sleat. 
Without  prejudging  any  genealogical  questions  that 
must  present  themselves  hereafter  for  solution,  this 
certainly  was  the  view  taken  by  the  vassals  of  the 
Isles  in  1539,  when  the  Chief  of  the  Clan  Uisdean 
once  more  unfurled  the  ancient  banner  and  deter- 
mined to  lay  claim  to  and  take  possession  of  the 
time-honoured  heritage  of  his  sires. 

There  is  nothing,  we  think,  more  remarkable  in 
the  history  of  the  years  between  1493,  when  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  forfeited,  and  the  final 
effort  made  for  its  revival  about  the  middle  of  the 
sixteenth  century,  than  the  almost  unanimous 
support,  despite  of  all  opposing  forces,  that  claimants 
to  the  ancient  honour  received  at  the  hands  of  the 
chiefs  and  clans  of  the  West.  Not  only  were  these 
insurrections  countenanced  by  cadet  families  of  the 
Isles,  but  other  vassals  than  those  of  the  Clan 
Donald  rallied  to  the  support  of  aspirants  to  the 
Lordship.  It  was  the  same  tendency  which  in  later 
centuries  and  on  a  larger  scale  was  displayed  by  the 
Celtic  inhabitants  of  Scotland,  in  the  strenuous 
effort  to  restore  the  fallen  Stuart  dynasty  to  the 
British  throne.  The  Highland  Clans  had  not  as  yet 
begun  to  feel  at  ease  under  the  yoke  of  a  Govern- 
ment becoming  more  and  more  out  of  sympathy 
with  Celtic  culture  and  sentiment,  and  with  the 
conservatism  characteristic  of  the  race,  they 
cherished  the  hope  that  the  good  old  times  might 
be  restored  when  they  lived  under  the  sway  of 
native  lords,  who  kept  up  the  institutions  and 
language  of  the  Gael  as  these  were  nowhere  else 
maintained.     They  did  not  follow  the  Lordship  of 


the  Isles  as  the  swallow  follows  summer,  with 
chivalrous  devotion  they  clung  to  it  after  the 
winter  of  its  misfortune  had  set  in.  The  system 
once  M^as  theirs,  and — 

"  Once  though  lost 
Leaves  a  faint  image  of  possession  still." 

Thus  do  we  account  for  the  fact  that  Donald  Gorme 
of  Sleat,  in  his  plot  to  lay  hold  of  the  Lordship  of 
the  Isles  and  Earldom  of  Ross,  was  supported  by  a 
majority  of  the  Highland  Chiefs,  and  particularly 
by  the  Macleods  of  Lewis,  to  whom  his  family  had 
long  been  united  in  bonds  of  blood  and  friendshi[\ 

It  is  evident  that  at  this  particular  stage  the 
Macleods  of  Dunvegan  had,  despite  the  opposition  of 
the  Clan  Uisdean,  obtained  a  footing  in  the  region 
of  Troternish,  for  Donald  Gorme's  first  move  in  the 
new  campaign  was  to  invade  that  district  and  lay  it 
waste.  He  then  turned  his  attention  to  the  main- 
land of  Hoss,  and,  with  fifty  galleys  and  their 
complement  of  fighting  men,  set  sail  for  the  shores 
of  Kenlochewe.  The  Barony  of  Ellandonan  was  at 
that  time  in  the  possession  of  John  Mackenzie,  9th 
Baron  of  Kintail,  who  was  at  the  time  away  in  the 
south,  but  who  was  well  known  to  be  adverse  to  the 
pretensions  advanced  by  the  Chief  of  Sleat,  as  well 
as  to  have  aided  Macleod  of  Dunvegan  in  his  designs 
upon  the  Barony  of  Troternish. 

"  M 'Donald  has  chosen  the  best  of  his  power  ; 

On  the  green  plains  of  Slate  were  his  warriors  arrayed ; 
Every  warrior  came  before  midnight  an  hour, 

With  the  sword  in  his  hand  and  the  belt  on  his  plaid. 

"  At  the  first  of  the  dawn,  when  the  boats  reached  the  shore, 
The  shai-p  ridge  of  Skooroora  with  dark  mist  was  crown'd, 
And  the  rays  that  broke  thro'  it  seemed  spotted  with  gore 
As  M'Donald's  bold  currach  first  struck  on  the  ground. 

356  THE    CLAjS    DONALD. 

"  Of  all  the  assailants  that  sprung  on  the  coast, 
One  of  stature  and  aspect  superior  was  seen  ; 
Whatever  a  lord  or  a  chieftain  could  boast, 
Of  valour  undaunted,  appeared  in  his  mien. 

"  'Twas  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  whom  the  Chamberlam  saw. 
While  a  trusty  long  bow  on  his  bosom  reclined, 
Of  stiff  yew  it  was  made,  which  few  sinews  could  draw  : 
Its  arrows  flew  straight,  and  as  swift  as  the  wind. 

"  With  a  just  aim  he  drew — the  shaft  pierced  the  bold  chief ; 
Indignant  he  started,  nor  heeding  the  smart, 
While  his  clan  pour'd  around  him,  in  clamorous  grief. 
From  the  wound  tore  away  the  deep  rivetted  dart. 

"  The  red  stream  flow'd  fast,  and  his  cheek  became  white  ; 
His  knees,  with  a  tremor  unknown  to  him,  shook  ; 
And  his  once  piercing  eyes  scarce  directed  his  sight, 
As  he  turned  towards  Skye  his  last  lingering  look.''^ 

The  foregoing  lines  seem  to  embody  an  authentic 
tradition  regarding  the  invasion  of  Hoss  and  siege  of 
Ellandonan  by  the  Chief  of  Clan  Uisdean.  Here,  as 
elsewhere,  the  traditional  historian  of  the  Mackenzies 
presents  to  us  as  sober  fact  a  most  luxuriant  growth 
of  legend,  expecting  us  calmly  to  endorse  a  narra- 
tive of  almost  miraculous  incidents.  Only  three 
men,  we  are  gravely  informed,  were  in  occupation  of 
Ellandonan  Castle  when  it  was  besieged  by  the  men 
of  the  Isles,  and  we  are  asked  to  credit  the  astound- 
ing statement  that  these  three  warriors,  the  governor, 
the  watchman,  and  an  individual  abounding  in 
patronymics — Duncan  MacGillechriost  MacFhionn- 
laidh  MacKath — successfully  opposed  fifty  boat  loads 
of  chosen  warriors  of  the  Clan  Donald  north.  We 
can  gather  this  grain  of  truth  from  amid  the 
mountain  of  chaff,  that  on  arriving  at  the  strong- 
hold of  Ellandonan,  Donald  Gorme,  at  the  head  of 

^  Scott's  Border  Minstrelsy. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD   UNDER   JAMES    V.  357 

his  men,  came  perilously  within  bowshot  of  the  walls, 
when  Duncan,  the  man  of  surnames,  fired  an  arrow 
with  unerring  skill,  and  struck  the  Chief  of  Sleat  in 
the  leg.  The  wound  would  not  have  proved  fatal 
were  it  not  that  Macdonald,  failing  to  perceive  that 
the  arrow  was  barbed,  plucked  it  impatiently  out  of 
the  wound,  thus  causing  a  severance  of  the  main 
artery,  and  hemorrhage,  which  his  attendants  knew 
not  how  to  staunch.  The  dying  Chief  was  removed 
to  a  sand  bank  on  the  shore,  where  a  temporary  hut 
was  erected  for  his  protection,  and  the  place  is  still 
pointed  out  as  Larach  Tigh  Mhacdhomhniiill, 
because  it  was  there  that  the  gallant  Donald  Gorme 
lay  while  the  crimson  tide  of  life  gradually  ebbed 
away.  Then,  when  he  had  breathed  his  last,  tfie 
same  tradition  tells  us  that  his  clansmen  lovingly 
laid  his  body  in  its  last  resting-place,  at  Ardelve,  on 
the  opposite  shore  of  Loch  Loung. 

That  the  followers  of  the  Chief  whose  career 
terminated  thus  fatally  and  prematurely  did  not 
retire  in  dismay  before  a  garrison  of  three,  is 
attested  by  the  authentic  records  of  the  age. 
Under  the  leadership  of  Ai^chibald  the  Clerk,  the 
death  of  Donald  Gorme  was  amply  avenged  by 
his  clansmen.  The  Castle  of  Ellandonan  was 
burned,  as  were  also  Mackenzie's  fleet  of  galleys, 
while  the  country  around  Kenlochew  was  harried 
and  laid  waste. 

The  rebellion  of  Donald  Gorme,  which,  but  for 
the  death  of  the  leader,  might  have  assumed 
formidable  proportions,  afforded  ample  proof  to  the 
Government,  if  such  indeed  were  required,  that 
there  still  existed  a  widespread  desire  among  the 
Western  clans  to  bring  back  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles.       For   this   reason   James  V.,   who    seems    to 

358  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

have  understood  the  Highland  character  better 
than  any  of  his  race,  resolved  to  make  an  imposing 
progress  through  the  Western  Isles,  with  the  view 
of  impressing  upon  the  chiefs  the  power  and  majesty 
of  the  Crown.  For  this  purpose  a  fleet  of  twelve 
ships  was  equipped  with  artillery  and  various  other 
accoutrements  of  war.  Six  of  these  were  set  apart 
for  the  special  use  of  the  King,  his  retinue,  and 
soldiers ;  while,  as  evidence  of  his  intention  to  take 
a  prolonged  cruise,  three  were  loaded  with  provi- 
sions, the  remaining  three  having  been  appropriated 
for  Cardinal  Beaton,  the  Earl  of  Huntly,  and  the 
Earl  of  Arran  respectively.  After  visiting  Orkney 
and  Caithness,  the  royal  fleet  doubled  Cape  Wrath, 
and  visited  a  number  of  the  Hebridean  Isles.  Among 
other  regions,  the  King  touched  at  the  district  of 
Troternish,  in  Skye,  lately  the  scene  of  invasion 
and  attack  by  the  deceased  head  of  the  Clan 
Uisdean.  The  fleet  dropped  anchor  at  Portree— in 
former  times  known  by  the  name  of  Loch  Challuim 
Chille,  or  Saint  Columba's  Loch — and  there  is  little 
reason  to  doubt  the  tradition  that  it  received  its 
more  modern  name  of  Port-an-Righ  owing  to  its 
association  with  this  royal  visit  to  the  Isle  of  Skye. 
Here  James  interviewed  the  famous  John  Moy- 
dartach  and  Archibald  the  Clerk,  Captain  of  the 
Clan  Uisdean  (his  grand-nephew  Donald  Gormeson 
being  but  a  child),  and  also  Alexander  of  Glengarry. 
The  first  of  these,  the  redoubtable  Captain  of  the 
Clanranald,  was,  with  Macleod  of  Dunvegan  and 
others,  compelled  to  accompany  the  King  on  his 
southward  voyage  ;  but  the  head  of  the  Family  of 
Sleat  seems  to  have  jn-eserved  his  freedom,  and  it  is 
on  record  that,  in  the  following  year,  1541,  he  and 
the  principal   men  of  his   clan  obtained  the  royal 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    V.  359 

pardon    for    the    excesses    and    "  heirschippes "    of 
Donald  Gorme's  campaign  in   1539. 

From  Skye,  the  King  directed  his  course  to  the 
South  Highlands,  calling  at  Kintail  in  the  passing 
by,  and  having  among  others  taken  on  board  his 
ship  James  Macdonald  of  Dunnyveg,  the  son  of 
Alexander  John  Cathanachson,  memorable  in  the 
annals  of  his  race  for  his  triumph  over  Argyle,  he 
sailed  up  the  Firth  of  Clyde  and  landed  at  Dum- 
barton. According  to  Bishop  Lesly,  the  King 
proceeded  homewards  by  land,  while  the  ships 
containing  the  captive  Chiefs,  whom  he  had  kept 
as  hostages  for  order  and  good  government,  were 
sent  back  by  the  West  and  North  of  Scotland, 
until  they  arrived  at  Edinburgh,  in  whose  Castle 
they  were  immured.  History  is  not  definite  as  to 
the  personel  of  these  imprisoned  potentates,  but  it 
is  certain  that  John  Moydartach  and  Macleod  of 
Dunvegan  were  of  the  number,  while  it  is  highly 
probable  that  Macleod  of  Lewis,  Alexander  Mac- 
donald of  Glengarry,  and  Maclean  of  Dowart  were 
likewise  their  companions  in  affliction.  It  is  not 
likely  that  James  Macdonald  of  Dunnyveg,  who  had 
been  educated  at  Court  under  the  royal  supervision, 
and  who  appears  to  have  been  a  favourite  with  the 
King,  suffered  even  a  short  imprisonment.  Several 
of  the  Chiefs  were  liberated  after  a  brief  captivity 
on  their  giving  hostages  for  their  good  behaviour, 
while  some  of  the  most  dangerous  to  the  peace 
of  the  Highlands,  including  John  Moydartach, 
were  kept  in  durance.  As  a  consequence  of  this 
summer  cruise  among  the  Isles,  it  is  said  that  peace 
and  quietness  prevailed  among  the  lieges  in  districts 
hitherto  perturbed,  and  that  the  Crown  rents  were 
promptly  and  regularly  paid. 

360  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Although  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  had  been  forfeited 
in  1493,  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  was  not  then  nor 
long  after,  by  any  formal  Act  of  the  Legislature, 
attached  to  the  Crown.  In  1540,  however,  certain 
measures  were  enacted  by  Parliament  for  increasing 
the  royal  revenues,  and  among  other  means  it  was 
resolved  to  annex  the  lands  and  Lordship  of  the 
Isles,  North  and  South,  with  the  two  Kintyres,  and 
the  Castles  pertaining  thereto,  and  their  pertinents.^ 
In  consequence  of  these  enactments,  we  find  a  royal 
garrison  this  same  year  occupying  the  Castle  of 
Dunnyveg,  with  Alexander  Stewart  as  the  King's 
Captain  in  charge,  as  also  the  Castle  of  Dunaverty 
in  Kintyre,  both  of  which  were  the  property  of  the 
Clann  Iain  Mhoir.  This  procedure,  although  it 
might  be  regarded  as  the  natural  sequel  to  the  Act 
of  Forfeiture,  was  a  decisive  step  so  far  as  the 
principality  of  the  Isles  was  concerned.  The  for- 
feiture of  1493,  followed  by  John's  resignation  in  the 
following  year,  does  not  stand  on  record  among  the 
Parliamentary  enactments  of  the  time,  and  their 
terms  are  merely  a  matter  of  conjecture.  Judging, 
however,  by  this  Act  of  1540,  John's  forfeiture  did 
not  extend  beyond  his  own  possessions,  and  the 
Lordship  of  the  Isles  still  continued  a  separate 
superiority,  and  it  does  not  seem  very  clear  how  far 
its  revenues  were  levied,  or  if  so,  to  what  purpose 
they  were  applied.  Now,  however,  the  Crown 
becomes  the  superior  of  the  lands  and  Lordship  of 
the  Isles,  and  it  is  a  question  whether  this  decided 
step  on  the  part  of  James  V.  was  calculated  to 
promote  the  peace  of  that  region,  especially  in 
view  of  the  events  that  darkened  the  years  that 
almost  immediately  followed  the  appropriation. 

^  Acts  of  Parliament  of  Scotland,  vol.  IL,  1540. 

THE    r!LAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES   V.  361 

In  1542  events  occurred  fraught  with  disastrous 
results  to  Scotland.  James  V.  was  at  war  with 
Henry  VIII.,  and  in  the  course  of  the  campaign  of 
that  year  incidents  took  place  most  discreditable 
to  the  loyalty  and  patriotism  of  the  Scottish  barons. 
We  are  not  called  upon  in  such  a  work  as  this, 
written  for  readers  of  all  shades  of  Christian  belief, 
to  discuss  the  merits  of  the  religious  controversy 
which  was  then  raging.  We  can,  however,  without 
offending  ecclesiastical  susceptibilities,  estimate  its 
political  effects  at  the  period  at  which  we  have 
arrived  ;  and  it  is  safe  to  say  that  the  influence  of 
Henry  VIII.  with  the  leaders  of  the  Reformation 
movement  in  Scotland  was  the  main  cause  of  the 
disaffection  of  the  barons  to  the  King,  who  still 
continued  to  support  the  Church  of  Rome.  In 
addition  to  all  this,  it  had  been  the  policy  of  James 
V.  in  recent  years,  as  it  had  been  the  traditional 
policy  of  the  Stewart  dynasty  for  generations,  to 
lessen  the  power  of  the  nobles  and  increase  the 
perogatives  of  the  Crown.  The  discontent  arising 
from  these  causes  came  to  a  height  in  1542.  First 
of  all,  at  Fala  Muir,  the  barons  flatly  refused  to  lead 
their  men  to  battle,  and  shortly  afterwards,  at 
Solway  Moss,  a  still  more  indelible  disgrace  befell 
the  Scottish  arms.  A  body  of  10,000  men,  under 
Lord  Maxwell  and  the  Earls  of  Cassilis  and  Glen- 
cairn,  entered  England,  and  on  being  attacked  by 
1400  English,  the  whole  Scottish  army  took  to 
flight,  while  nearly  1000  rank  and  file,  and  200 
lords,  esquires,  and  noblemen  fell  as  prisoners  into 
the  enemy's  hands.  The  leaders  were  corrupt  and 
the  men  mutinous,  and  for  the  reasons  already 
suggested  they  entered  with  no  heart  or  energy 
into  the  conflict.     Many  instances  are  on  record  of 

362  THE    CLA2^    DONALD. 

men  having  been  cited  to  the  royal  army  against  this 
raid  of  Solway,  and  receiving  remissions  for  their 
failure  to  attend.  We  find  on  January  21,  1542, 
that  a  remission  is  granted  to  Donald  MacAlister  of 
Largie,  John,  his  son  and  heir  apparent,  Ranald 
Boy,  Archibald  and  John  Makranaldvane,  with 
twenty-four  others,  and  Alexander  McAlister  of 
Loupe  and  two  others,  for  treasonable  abiding  from 
the  raid  of  Solway.  How  far,  if  at  all,  the  other 
branches  of  the  Clan  Donald  were  involved  in  the 
same  default,  we  find  nothing  in  contemporary 
records  to  indicate.^  The  King  felt  so  keenly  the 
national  disgrace  involved  in  the  flight  of  his  army 
at  Solway,  as  well  as  the  ominous  political  compli- 
cations by  which  he  was  on  all  hands  beset,  that  he 
became  a  prey  to  the  deepest  despondency,  and 
finally  to  despair.  His  proud  spirit  never  rallied 
from  the  humiliation,  and  the  fever  of  the  mind  so 
consumed  his  physical  frame  that  in  a  few  weeks  he 
died  from  the  saddest,  the  most  tragic  of  all  com- 
plaints— the  pain  which  no  anodyne  can  soothe  and 
no  physician  heal — a  broken  heart.  He  was  the 
victim  of  a  powerful  set  of  political  forces  which 
were  beyond  the  control  of  any  individual,  however 
gifted,  either  to  oppose  or  direct ;  but  he  had  given 
promise  of  great  administrative  power,  and,  humanly 
speaking,  the  wellbeing  of  the  Highlands,  and  the 
interests  of  the  Clan  wdiose  story  we  are  telling,  and 
towards  which  he  acted  with  great  wisdom  and 
consideration,  were  prejudicially  affected  by  his 
death,  in  the  rich  summer  of  his  years. 

The  first  notable  event  in  the  history  of  the  Clan 
Donald  after  the  death  of  James  V.  was  the  escape 
of   Donald   Dubh   from  Edinburgh   Castle  in   1543. 

^  Pitcairn's  Criminal  Trials,  vol,  II.,  ad  tempus. 

THE   CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  363 

How  his  deliverance  was  effected,  whether  the  men 
of  Glencoe  or  other  clansmen  practised  any  further 
"  Fenian  exploits"  for  the  liberation  of  the  heir  of 
the  House  of  Isla,  we  have  no  materials  for  judging. 
He  himself,  in  the  course  of  a  correspondence  with 
Henry  YIII.  two  years  afterwards,  acknowledged  his 
indebtedness  for  his  freedom  more  to  the  good  grace 
of  God  than  to  the  Scottish  Government.^  It 
is  obvious  that,  owing  to  the  political  conditions  of 
the  time,  the  Government's  hold  upon  the  Celtic 
region  had  grown  lax  and  feeble  ;  the  Isles  parti- 
cularly were  ripe  for  insurrection,  and  we  may  be 
sure  that  no  pains  would  be  spared,  no  device  left 
untried,  to  effect  the  release  of  the  captive  who, 
more  than  any  other,  had  an  hereditary  right  to  the 
homage  of  the  ancient  vassals  of  the  Isles. 

It  will  assist  us  to  understand  the  influences  that 
moulded  Clan  Donald  history  at  this  period  if  we 
give  a  brief  glance  at  the  relations  between  parties 
in  Scotland.  The  Reformation  was  the  most 
important  factor  in  the  political  conditions  both  of 
England  and  Scotland  at  the  time  of  Donald  Dubh's 
escape.  Among  the  large  masses  as  well  as  the 
middle  classes  of  the  population  religious  feelings 
were  deeply  moved,  and  religious  motives  largely 
operated  ;  but  among  the  nobility  the  controversy 
assumed,  in  a  great  degree,  a  political  complexion, 
and  dominated,  to  a  marked  extent,  the  relations  of 
political  parties.  As  an  inevitable  consequence,  two 
factions  arose  out  of  the  turmoil  of  the  time  ;  on  the 
one  hand,  the  Catholic  party,  headed  by  Cardinal 
Beaton,  wedded  to  the  old  order  and  opposed  to  the 
policy  of  Henry  VIII.,  the  leader  of  the  reformed 
movement  in  England,  and,  on  the  other,  the  Pro- 

^  Document  in  State  Paper  Office. 

364  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

testant  party,  under  the  leadership  of  the  Earl  of 
Arran,  favouring  the  attitude  of  the  English  monarch, 
and  encouraging  his  interference  in  the  affairs  of  the 
Scottish  State. 

Whatever  estimate  may  be  formed  of  the  private 
character  of  Cardinal  Beaton,  a  question  that  we  are 
not  called  upon  to  discuss  here,  he  was  undoubtedly 
a  man  of  great  political  talent,  and  his  maintenance 
of  a  national  and  independent  policy  for  Scotland  is, 
from  a  patriotic  standpoint,  worthy  of  commendation. 
A  determined  foe  of  the  Reformation,  he  was  a 
devoted  upholder  of  the  Koman  See,  as  well  as  of 
the  alliance  with  France,  all  of  which  implied  enmity 
to  England  and  hostility  to  Henry  YIII.,  the  political 
head  and  mainspring  of  the  Protestant  cause  in  that 
country.  Beaton  had  failed  in  his  design  upon  the 
Regency,  but  down  to  the  day  of  his  death  he 
exercised  the  largest  measure  of  influence  in  the  still 
powerful  party  with  which  he  was  so  closely  allied. 
The  Earl  of  Arran,  who,  on  account  of  his  close 
relationship  to  the  Throne,  was  appointed  Regent, 
had  embraced  the  principles  of  the  Reformation, 
but  neither  his  political  nor  religious  convictions 
were  sufficiently  steadfast  or  profound,  to  cause  him 
to  take  a  resolute  or  consistent  attitude,  in  his 
handling  of  the  reins  of  his  exalted  office. 

The  interference  of  Henry  VIII.  in  the  affairs  of 
Scotland  took  the  form  of  an  attempt  to  negotiate  a 
marriage  between  the  Prince  of  Wales  and  the 
infant  Queen  of  Scots.  Facilities  for  promoting  this 
match  lay  to  his  hand  in  the  return  of  the  Earl  of 
Angus  and  the  exiled  Douglasses,  as  well  as  of 
numerous  prisoners  of  rank  taken  at  the  disgraceful 
raid  of  Solway  in  1542,  all  of  whom  were  strictly 
enjoined  by  Henry  to  use  their  endeavours  for  the 


furtherance  of  his  pet  scheme.  This  scheme,  had  it 
only  aimed  at  a  union  honourable  to  both  countries, 
need  not  have  been  regarded  with  any  suspicion, 
even  on  the  ground  of  patriotism  ;  but  when  other 
designs  were  entertained  subversive  of  the  national 
liberties,  such  as  the  surrender  of  the  fortresses  and 
the  acknowledgment  of  Henry's  paramount  authority, 
those  Scottish  nobles  who  promised  their  support 
were  guilty  of  the  most  ignominious  treachery. 
Cardinal  Beaton  was,  of  course,  the  most  prominent 
in  his  opposition  to  the  designs  of  the  English  King, 
and  left  no  means  untried  to  thwart  them.  Among 
other  means,  he  got  Matthew,  Earl  of  Lennox,  to 
return  from  abroad,  and  he  being  nearly  related  to 
the  Royal  Family,  Beaton  proposed  him  for  the 
Begency  in  opposition  to  Arran,  and  thus  wrought 
upon  the  Begent's  fears. 

Whatever,  in  other  circumstances,  might  have 
happened,  the  Scottish  factions  were  soon  thrown 
into  each  others'  arms  by  the  violent  and  precijDitate 
temper  of  the  English  King.  The  disclosure  of  his 
ulterior  designs  so  alarmed  statesmen  of  all  parties, 
that  something  like  a  rupture  of  diplomatic  rela- 
tions ensued,  and  the  treaty  for  the  marriage  was 
abandoned.  The  coalition  thus  entered  into  by 
Cardinal  Beaton  and  the  Begent  soon  produced 
its  natural  results.  The  Cardinal,  who  had  pre- 
vailed upon  the  Earl  of  Lennox  to  come  to  Scotland 
by  holding  out  to  him  high  prospects  of  political 
advancement,  now  grew  cold  in  his  attentions  when 
he  had  no  further  ends  for  him  to  serve,  and  we  are 
not  surprised  to  find  this  nobleman  taking  umbrage 
at  the  treatment,  espousing  the  cause  of  the  party 
opposed  to  the  Cardinal,  and  becoming  a  strenuous 
supporter  of  English    influence  in   Scottish  affaii's. 

366  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

Lennox  had  gone  the  length  of  securing  the  assist- 
ance of  the  French  King  for  the  prosecution  of  the 
war  with  England,  now  regarded  as  inevitable,  and 
a  French  fleet  actualfy  arrived  in  the  Firth  of  Clyde 
laden  with  military  stores  and  a  sum  of  10,000 
crowns,  to  be  distributed  among  the  Cardinal's 
friends.  The  French  Ambassador,  not  knowing 
that  the  Earl  of  Lennox  had  recently  changed  his 
political  connection,  allowed  himself  and  the  Earl 
of  Glencairn,  a  staunch  upholder  of  the  English 
interest,  to  help  themselves  to  the  gold  which  he 
had  in  his  custody,  and  it  was  only  after  the 
mistake  could  no  longer  be  repaired  that  he 
discovered  how  adroitly  the  two  noblemen  had 
circumvented  him. 

It  was  at  this  juncture,  when  tiie  Scottish  body 
politic  was  rent  by  conflicting  interests,  passions, 
and  intrigues,  and  English  influence  was  actively 
interposing  in  Scottish  affairs,  that  Donald  Dubh 
once  more  made  his  dehiit  upon  the  stormy  theatre 
of  war.  At  the  time  of  his  escape  from  Inchconnel, 
forty  years  before,  he  had  been  proclaimed  Lord  of 
the  Isles  with  all  the  traditional  rites  and  cere- 
monies ;  but  now  he  lays  claim  to  the  Earldom  of 
Ross  as  well,  and,  as  soon  as  circumstances  permit, 
addresses  himself  to  the  task  of  dislodging  the  Earls 
of  Argyle  and  Huntly  from  the  possessions  which 
belonged  to  his  ancestors,  the  former  in  the  South 
Highlandn,  the  latter  in  the  region  of  Lochaber. 
Both  these  noblemen  have  received  praise  from 
writers  of  history  for  their  loyalty  to  the  throne 
during  the  confusion  and  political  corruption  of 
these  troublous  times.  It  must,  however,  be 
remembered  that  the  interests  of  both  were  intim- 
ately   bound    up    with    the    maintenance    of    the 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER    JAMES    Y.  367 

established  order,  and  that  with  Argyle  especially, 
threatened  as  he  was  with  eviction,  bas"  and 
baggage,  from  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  antagonism 
to  England — the  ally  of  his  foe — and  consequent 
support  of  the  Scottish  cause,  was  the  only  possible 
line  of  action  for  the  preservation  of  his  estates. 

When  Donald  Dubh  found  himself  at  large,  he 
realised  the  necessity  of  proceeding  with  caution 
and  deliberation.  The  most  powerful  of  the  High- 
land chiefs  were  still  prisoners  in  the  Castle  of 
Edinburgh,  from  which  he  had  just  escaped,  and, 
consequently,  the  Western  Clans  were  bereft  of 
the  hereditary  leaders,  without  whose  presence  the 
movement  could  not  possibly  gather  its  full  and 
legitimate  force.  In  these  circumstances  a  truce 
was  arranged  with  the  Earl  of  Argyle  to  last  till 
May-day  of  that  year ;  but  although  on  the  expiry 
of  the  induciae  both  sides  were  engaged  in  hostilities, 
these  did  not,  at  the  outset,  assume  very  formidable 
proportions.  At  last  an  event  occurred  which 
immediately  and  powerfully  affected  the  position 
and  prospects  of  the  new  Lord  of  the  Isles.  The 
Regent  Arran,  a  man  of  indolent  and  facile  dis- 
position, did — on  the  suggestion  of  the  Earl  of 
Glencairn — liberate  the  Highland  chiefs,  who  had 
been  imprisoned  since  1540  as  hostages  for  the 
peace  of  their  districts.  The  object  of  Glencairn 
clearly  was  to  create  such  discord  and  civil  strife 
in  Scotland  as  would  absorb  the  energies  of  loyal 
nobles  and  weaken  the  forces  available  for  resisting 
the  designs  of  the  English  King.  The  conduct  of 
the  Regent,  assuming,  as  we  may,  that  he  was 
sincere  in  his  maintenance  of  the  national  integrity, 
was  little  better  than  midsummer  madness.  He 
took    bonds  from   the    liberated   chiefs   "  that  they 

368  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

should  not  make  any  stir  or  breach  in  their  country 
but  at  such  time  as  he  should  appoint  them,"  and, 
no  doubt,  they  were  delighted  to  obtain  their 
freedom  upon  terms  so  easy  ;  but  bonds  imposed 
under  such  conditions  were  soon  found  to  be  value- 
less. It  appears  from  Donald  Dubh's  correspondence 
with  Henry  YIII.  that  the  Regent  made  overtures 
to  him  also  to  secure  his  submission  and  allegiance 
upon  favourable  terms  ;^  but  in  this  also  he  was 
unsuccessful,  and  very  shortly  after  the  Chieftains 
of  the  Isles  had  shaken  the  dust  of  Edinburgh  from 
their  feet,  Celtic  Scotland  was  once  more  in  the 
throes  of  a  revolution. 

The  liberation  of  the  Chiefs  was  soon  followed  by 
overt  action  on  the  part  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles.  He 
took  the  field  with  1800  men,  and,  invading  the  terri- 
tories of  Argyle,  he  plundered  the  country  and  put 
many  of  the  vassals  to  the  sword.  In  this,  Donald 
had  the  unanimous  support  of  the  vassals  of  the  Isles, 
with  the  single  exception  of  James  Macdonald  of 
Dunnyveg,  who  withheld  his  personal  co-operation. 
If  Argyle  in  the  South  Highlands  was  sore  beset  by 
the  Western  Clans,  the  Earl  of  Huntly,  as  Lieutenant 
of  the  North  and  owner  of  extensive  territories  there, 
had  similar  difficulties  to  contend  with.  The  follow- 
ing extract  from  the  Council  records  of  the  Burgh  of 
Aberdeen  illustrates  the  feeling  of  insecurity  that 
existed  in  the  North,  and  the  preparations  for 
resistance  that  were  being  made  against  the  antici- 
pated invasion  from  England,  as  well  as  expected 
incursions  by  Donald  and  his  Islesmen  : — 

"January  26th,  1544. — The  sayd  day  the  hayll  tooun  beying 
varnit  to  this  day  be  thair  hand  bell  passand  throcht  all  the  rewis 
and  stretis  of  this  said  toun  be  the  berar  therof  on  the  quhilk  he 
maid  fayth  in  iugment  and  in  speciale  be  the  officiaris  of  the  said 

^  Documents  in  State  Paper  Office, 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  369 

burghe  on  the  qvihilks  inlikwyise  thai  maid  fayth  in  iugmcnt  and 
comperand  for  the  maist  part  rcpresentand  the  haill  body  of  the 
townn  thar  was  presentit  to  thame  the  quenis  grace  lettres  afor 
written  ;  ane  one  the  sowme  of  four  hundredth  hb.  xiiij  lib.  vjs. 
viid.  of  taxt,  for  furnesing  of  ane  thousand  horse  to  remain  with 
the  Jocumtenant  on  the  bordouris,  for  resisting  of  our  auld  enemies 
of  Ingland  during  the  space  of  thre  moneths,  and  als  thair  was 
presentit  in  iugment  two  writingis  of  the  Erie  of  Huntlie  locum- 
tenant  generale  of  the  North  of  Scotland  be  the  seruandis  upoun 
the  said  townn  in  fear  of  weir,  with  all  necessaris  as  efFerit,  with 
twenty  days  vitelling  to  pas  with  the  said  locumtenent  for  resisting 
of  Donald  His  quhilk  with  his  complices  is  cumand,  as  is  allegit 
upoun  the  quenis  landis  of  Koss  for  inuasion  tluiirof  and  con- 
quesing  of  the  same." 

In  the  very  midst  of  Donald  Diibh's  rebellion  the 
Northern  Highlands  were  plunged  into  still  greater 
disorder  by  a  feud  that  sprung  up  between  John 
Moydartach  of  Clanranald  and  the  Frasers  of  Lovat, 
and  which  resulted  in  the  sanguinary  battle  of 
Kinloch  Lochy,  known  in  the  Highlands  as  Blar 
Leine,  and  fought  on  the  15th  July,  1545.  The 
details  of  this  tragic  field  will  fall  to  be  narrated  in 
a  subsequent  volume.  We  refer  to  it  at  this  stage 
to  show  that  John  Moydartach,  by  engaging  Huntly 
and  Lord  Lovat,  the  partisans  of  the  Crown,  was 
fighting,  not  only  for  his  own  hand,  but  in  the 
interests  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  as  well.  In  the 
meantime,  the  relations  between  Henry  VIII.  and 
the  Scottish  Government  grew,  if  possible,  more 
bitter.  The  English  King  sent  an  expedition,  under 
the  command  of  the  Earl  of  Lennox,  which  did  much 
havoc  in  the  West  Highlands.  Arran  was  attacked 
and  plundered,  and  the  Castle  of  Brodick  reduced  to 
ashes,  while  the  Island  of  Bute,  with  its  Castle  of 
Eothesay,  was  reduced.  After  an  ineffectual  attempt 
to  take  Dunbarton  Castle,  Lennox  returned  to  Eng- 
land.    On  the  13th  of  August,   1545,  the  Scottish 


370  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Lords  addressed  a  letter  from  Melrose  to  Henry 
VIII.,  in  which  they  advised  an  invasion  of  Scotland 
in  force,  and  that  an  expedition  for  that  purpose 
should  be  organised,  under  command  of  the  Earl  of 
Hertford.  Preparations  v^ere  already  in  progress 
for  an  invasion  by  land,  as  well  as  a  naval  descent 
upon  the  West  Coast,  and,  in  the  course  of  these, 
negotiations  were  opened  with  Donald  Dubh,  who 
was  now  at  the  head  of  the  whole  military  strength 
of  the  Isles.  Alliances  with  England  were  nothing 
new  in  the  history  of  the  House  of  Isla,  and  Donald, 
true  to  his  family  traditions,  and  smarting  under  his 
imprisonment  of  half  a  century,  disclaimed  allegiance 
to  Scotland,  and,  with  the  Earl  of  Lennox  as  inter- 
mediary, entered  into  a  treaty  with  the  English 
King.  In  the  month  of  June,  it  is  evident  that  the 
communications  passing  between  the  English  interest 
and  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  had  come  under  the  notice 
of  the  Scottish  Government,  and  a  Proclamation  was 
issued  by  the  Kegent  Arran  and  his  Council  against 
"  Donald  alleging  himself  of  the  Isles  and  other 
Highlandmen  his  partakers."  Donald  and  his  accom- 
plices were  charged  with  invasions  upon  the  Queen's 
lieges,  both  in  the  Isles  and  in  the  Mainland, 
assisted  by  the  King  of  England,  with  whom 
thej  were  leagued,  shewing  that  they  purposed 
bringing  these  under  obedience  to  that  Sovereign. 
The  Proclamation  called  upon  them  to  desist  from 
such  treasonable  and  rebellious  conduct,  failing 
which  they  were  threatened  with  serious  pains 
and  penalties.  It  is  thus  apparent  that  before 
we  have  any  record  of  a  formal  league  between 
Donald  Dubh  and  Henry  VIII.,  the  Scottish 
Government  regarded  the  alliance  as  practically 
complete,  and  Henry's  expedition  to  the  West  under 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES   V.  371 

Lennox  as  in  aid  of  the  efforts  of  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  for  the  recovery  of  his  patrimony.  This  Pro- 
clamation failed,  of  course,  to  produce  the  desired 
result,  and  processes  of  treason  were  commenced  and 
carried  through  as  expeditiously  as  was  compatible 
with  Parliamentary  procedure.  So  far  as  we  can 
ascertain,  the  first  extant  record  of  the  league  with 
England  bears  the  date  of  23rd  July,  1545,  and  is 
contained  in  the  "  Commission  from  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles  of  Scotland  to  treat  with  the  King  of  England," 
the  tenour  whereof  follows  : — 

"  Be  it  kend  till  all  men  be  ye  pnt  wryt  We  Donald  Lord  of 
ye  His  and  Eiil  of  Roiss  with  adviss  and  consent  of  our  barronis 
and  counsaill  of  ye  His  that  is  to  say  Hector  Machine  Lord  of 
Doward  Jhonn  Macallister  Capitane  of  Clanranald  Lord  MacLeod 
of  Lewiss  Alex^  MacLeod  of  Dunbeggane  Murdoch  Maclane  of 
Lochbouy  Angus  Maconill  brudir  german  to  James  Maconill  Allan 
Maclane  of  Torloske  brudir  german  to  ye  Lord  Maclane  Archibald 
Maconill  Capitane  of  Clan  Hustein  Alex.'^  Mackane  of  Ardna- 
murchan  Jhonn  Maclain  of  Coll  gilliganan  MacNeill  of  barray 
Mackiynnan  of  Straquhordill  Johnn  Macquore  of  Ulwy  Jhonn 
Maclane  of  Ardgor  Alex"^  rannoldson  of  Glengarrie  Angus  ronaldson 
of  Cnoeddart  Donald  Maclane  of  Kengarloch,  to  have  maid 
constitud  and  ordanit  and  be  yir  our  presentis  makis  constitutis 
and  ordanis  giffand  our  full  power  express  bidding  and  command 
to  honorable  person  is  and  our  kynnsmen  yat  is  to  say  Rore 
Makallester  elect  to  ye  bishoppe  of  the  Isles  in  Scotland  and  deyn 
of  Moruairin  and  Mr  Patrik  Maclain  brudir  german  to  yc  said 
Lord  m*^  lain  bailze  of  ycomkill  and  iustice  clerk  of  ye  South  His 
cointlie  and  sevralie  our  aid  and  indorsetit  Comissionaris,  We 
beand  bodely  swarne  to  stand  ferme  and  stable  at  all  and  haill  ye 
saidis  Comissionaris  promittis  or  does  in  our  name  and  bchalve 
We  neer  to  own  in  ye  contrar  of  ye  samyn  and  We  admit  ye  sadis 
Comissionaris  to  bind  and  to  lowss  to  follow  and  defend  to  tyn 
and  wyn  to  end  and  compleit  as  such  awin  proper  persins  war 
presentis  in  all  materis  as  will  be  commandit  yamc  be  Mathew  erll 
of  Lennox  and  secund  persoun  of  ye  realm  of  Scotland  endowdit 
and  in  speciall  testifying  our  Landis  instantlic  be  maid  to  ane 
most  nobill  and  potent  prince  Harye  ye  acht  be  ye  grace  of  god 

372  THE   CLAN   DONALD. 

King  of  ingland  france  and  Ireland  yir  forsadis  Comissionaris 
haifFand  our  full  power  to  acit  and  to  end  in  all  udir  our 
afFairis  concerning  ye  Kingis  maieste  of  ingland  france  and 
Ireland  and  ye  said  erll  of  Lennox  as  ye  said  erll  will  comand. 
Comanding  yir  our  sadis  Comissionaris  and  for  better  secuorite  of 
yis  present  we  ye  said  Donald  has  afiixit  our  proper  seill  wit  our 
hand  at  ye  pen  becaus  we  can  not  writ  and  has  causit  ye  baronis 
aboun  writtin  becaus  thai  co<^  not  writ  to  cause  ane  no  tar  to 
subscribe  for  yame  w*  yair  hand  at  ye  pen  w*  yair  bodely  auttie 
neir  to  cum  in  ye  contrar  of  ye  samyn  And  als  we  have  gifiin 
Commissioun  to  our  saidis  Comissiounaris  to  mak  ye  selis  of  yir 
our  baronis  aboun  wtin  gif  neid  be  or  requirit  ye  qlk  ye  saidis 
baronis  has  swarne  afore  ane  notar  publick  to  stand  and  abyd  at 
ye  saidis  selis ^  selit  be  saidis  Comissionaris  and  nere  to  cum  in  ye 
contrar  of  ye  sam  and  has  selit  our  proper  seill  and  signet  w*  ye 
saidis  Comissionaris  for  ye  completing  and  ending  of  all  besynes 
comandit  or  requirit  be  ye  said  erll  of  Lennox  In  witness  heirof 
we  have  yir  pret  Comissioun  afoir  patrik  Colquhoun  of  pemwul 
Walter  macfarlan  of  Ardlys  Sr  archibald  m'^gillivray  Vicar  of 
Killane  Mr  Jhonn  Carswell  notaris  publick  requirit  to  ye  samyn 
w*-  witness."^ 

The  foregoing  document,  drawn  up  in  the  island 
of  Eigg — or  EUancarne  as  it  is  designated  in  the 
conclusion  of  the  deed — contains  the  names  of  all 
the  Island  vassals,  with  the  exception  already 
referred  to,  and  even  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  was 
efficiently  represented  by  his  brother  Angus,  who, 
no  doubt,  was  accompanied  by  a  contingent  of 
fighting  men  from  his  native  Isla.  The  delibera- 
tions which  find  expression  in  this  remarkable 
paper  seem  to  have  been  conducted  with  a  unity  and 
cohesiveness  of  purpose  not  always  characteristic  of 
the  policy  of  the  Western  Chiefs.  Even  Maclan  of 
Arclnamurchan — who,  in  former  days,  was  wont  to 
play  into  the  hands  of  the  House  of  Argyle,  acting 
the  part  of  jackal  to  the  lion  of  Inverary — now  falls 

^  "Seal"  ill  this  connectiou  evideutly  means  "  siguature. " 
^  Extracted  from  Correspondence  in  State  Paper  Office. 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  373 

in  line  with  the  rest  of  the  Clan  Donald  chiefs. 
The  leading  motive  of  the  movement  was  un- 
doubtedly the  attachment  of  the  Islesmen  to  the 
historic  family  which  had  so  long  borne  sway  in 
the  Western  Highlands,  and  though  the  attitude 
of  the  Chiefs  would  not  have  been  weakened  by 
the  vision  of  English  gold  held  up  to  them  by  the 
emissaries  of  Henry,  the  history  of  the  Highland 
people  is  very  far  from  ju-stifying  the  suspicion 
that  mercenary  motives  played  more  than  a  very 
subordinate  part  in  the  support  now  accorded  to 
the  last  representative  of  the  House  of  Isla. 

From  the  Isle  of  Eigg,  a  favourite  rendezvous 
with  the  men  of  the  Isles,  the  scene  changes  to 
the  North  of  Ireland.  There,  about  a  week  later, 
we  find  the  Island  Lord  with  all  his  barons,  an 
army  of  4000  men,  and  180  galleys.  The  meeting 
place  of  the  Council  of  the  Isles  was  the  chapter 
house  of  the  Monastery  of  Greyfriars  at  Knock- 
fergus,  and  there  were  also  present  Patrick  Colquhoun 
and  Walter  Macfarlane,  Commissioners  of  the  Earl 
of  Lennox^ ;  also  Walter  Cluddy  Constable,  Henry 
Wyld  Mayor,  Patrick  Macgelloquhowill  and  Nicolas 
Wild  Bailies,  of  the  same  town.  It  is  also  inter- 
esting to  note  the  presence  of  John  Carswell,  who 
afterwards  rose  to  eminence  as  the  first  Protestant 
Bishop  of  the  Isles,  and  whose  edition  of  the  prayer- 
book  in  the  vernacular  is  one  of  the  treasures  of 
Gaelic  literature.  He  signs  and  indorses,  in  the 
capacity  of  Notary  Public,  several  of  the  more 
important  documents  written  in  the  course  of  this 
unique   correspondence    with    the   English    Govern- 

'  Agreement  of  Lord  of  the  Isles  and  other  Chieftauis  and  Commissioners 
of  Lennox,  in  State  Paper  Office, 

374  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

ment.  The  Islesmen  pledge  anew  their  allegiance 
to  the  English  monarch,  and  promise  to  do  all  in 
their  power  to  promote  the  scheme  which  Henry 
still  hoped  to  carry  into  effect,  the  marriage  of  the 
Prince  of  Wales  and  the  infant  Princess  of  Scotland. 
This  is  but  a  preliminary  to  other  instruments  of 
agreement  and  concord  which  are  formulated  upon 
the  same  days.  In  a  letter  of  6th  August,  from 
Donald  to  the  Privy  Council  of  Henry  VHI.,  we 
have  for  the  first  time  an  intimation  of  the  monetary 
assistance  offered  to  him  for  his  services,  as  well  as 
to  aid  him  in  the  recovery  of  his  rights.  This  aid 
consisted  of  a  gift  of  1000  crowns,  sent  by  the  Privy 
Council  by  the  hands  of  Patrick  Colquhoun,  who,  in 
the  interval  since  the  meeting  of  Council  at  Eigg, 
has  found  time  to  be  the  bearer  of  English  treasure 
to  the  Island  Lord.  This  is  accompanied  by  the 
promise  of  an  annual  pension  of  2000  crowns  for  life, 
conditioned,  of  course,  by  the  continuance  of  his  allegi- 
ance— ad  vitam  aut  culparii.  The  Commissioners 
from  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  have  not  yet,  however, 
gone  on  their  important  errand  to  lay  their  master's 
commands  before  the  King  and  Council  of  England. 
A  series  of  Articles,^  to  be  placed  in  the  hands  of 
the  Island  Deputies  in  support  of  their  Commission, 
w^as  drawn  up  on  the  5th  August ;  but  it  would 
appear  that,  on  the  arrival  of  the  Earl  of  Lennox 
on  the  scene  of  Council,  other  Articles,  similar  in 
number  and  substance,  but  containing  much  addi- 
tional matter,  were  substituted  in  their  room,  and 
as  these  shed  an  interesting  light  upon  the 
transactions  of  the  period,  we  propose  to  quote 
them  here  as  fully  and  accurately  as  we  can. 

^  Documents  in  State  Paper  Office, 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  375 



"  Item  first,  that  quhare  we  desyrit  in  our  artikills  to  your 
Lordshipis  bewrtt  afore  my  lord  therlle  of  Lenox  coming  (second 
ppersoun  of  the  realme  of  Scotland),  his  Lordship  to  be  send  in 
Scotland  w*  ane  arme  for  settin  fast  of  the  Kingis  enemys  of 
Scotland.  In  the  nixt  artikill  quhar  our  Lord  and  Maister  t'  erll 
of  Ross  and  lord  of  the  His  promittis  that  his  Lordship  shall 
distroye  the  tane  half  of  Scotland  or  than  mak  theyme  to  cum  to 
the  Kingis  maiesties  obedience  and  to  my  Lord  t'  Erlle  of  Lenox 
his  hienes  subject.  The  third  artikill  quhar  the  said  erll  of  ross 
our  Maister  him  becom  the  Kingis  grace  subject  bodelye 

sworne  wyt  the  lord  Maclane  and  the  rest  of  the  barronis  of  the 
His  .  and  desyris  the  Kingis  grace  w*  awise  of  your  Lordships  his 
good  counsall  to  mak  no  aggreance  with  Scotland,  and  in  speciall 
w*  the  erllis  huntlie  and  argyll,  wy*out  the  said  erll  of  ross,  the 
lord  Maclane  Captain  of  Clanranald  wy*  the  rest  of  the  barronis  of 
the  His,  the  quhilkis  ar  becom  the  Kingis  grace  subjectis  be 
includit  therin  the  fourt  artikill  quhar  it  specifyith  of  the  Kingis 
maiesteis  most  noble  gudness  and  your  Lordships  his  most  honor- 
able counsall  hath  written  w*  patrick  colquhoun  seruaud  to  our 
good  lord  t'  erlle  of  Lenox  to  gif  the  said  erll  of  ross  ane  yeirlie 
pension  of  two  thousand  crownis  for  service  doyne  and  to  be  doyne 
of  the  quhilk  sum  his  Lordship  hath  rasawit  be  the  said  patrick 
Colquhoun  xiiii.  hundreth  crownis  w*  uderis  presentis  send  be 
t'  erlle  of  Lennox  as  his  discharge  at  more  lenth  beareth,  of  the 
qlk  yeirlie  pension  the  said  erlle  of  ross  desyris  sich  suirness  of 
his  hienes  as  sal  be  requirit  rasonable  be  us  his  Commissionaris, 
and  his  most  noble  hienes  and  your  good  Lordships  thinkis 
expedient,  w*  his  grace  mainteinyng  and  defending  the  said  ei-11  of 
ross  injoeing  and  bruiking  all  heretages  and  possessionis  that  his 
forbearis  erlles  of  ross  and  Lordis  of  the  His  bruikit  of  befoir. 
The  fift  artikill  and  last  of  all  beareth  that  quhar  the  said  erll  of 
ross  promittis  to  serve  the  Kingis  maiestie  and  my  lord  t'  erlle  of 
Lennox  w*  the  number  of  viii.  thousand  men,  four  thousand  men 
of  the  same  now  instanllie  is  come  in  the  Kingis  maiesteis  boundis 
of  Ireland,  the  uther  four  thousand  is  keepand  than'  awin  boundis 
agains  the  erlles  huntlie  and  argyill,  the  quhilk  stayis  the  saidis 
erllis  to  remane  in  thair  awin  boundis,  and  may  not  supplie  nor 
defend  the  bordoris  of  Scotland  in  contrarie  the  Kingis  maiesteis 
arme  the  said  cril  of  ross  desyris  to  have  wagis  to  three  thousand 
of  the  said  eytht  thousand  the  uther  five  thousand  to  serve  the 

376  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Kingis  maiestie  in  favour  of  my  lord  t'  erlle  of  Lennox  not  takand 
wagis  and  this  my  lordis  the  said  erll  of  Ross  the  lord  maclane 
and  the  rest  of  the  barronies  of  the  His  to  becom  the  Kingis  grace 
is  subjectis  as  said  is,  in  the  fauo^'  causing  and  your  afFectioun  had 
in  the  said  erlle  of  Lennox  and  in  especialle  be  suir  knowledge  of 
the  gudness  that  the  Kingis  most  noble  maiestie  hath  doyn  and 
dalie  dois  to  the  said  erll  of  Lennox. 

"  Item  after  the  comying  of  the  said  erll  of  Lennox  we  hearand 
his  Lordship's  mynd  concernynge  the  Kingis  graces  affaires  with 
presents  in  o''  Lord  and  maistiris  name  the  said  erlle  of  ross  and 
Lord  of  the  His,  of  my  lord  of  Lennox  w*"  the  Kingis  grace  is  arme 
pass  uppon  Dunbertan  or  uppon  any  uther  the  wcast  ptis  of 
Scotland  we  sail  mak  the  number  of  vi.  thousand  men  wyth  their 
galays  and  vesshells  conforme  to  the  said  number  to  forme  the 
Kingis  graces  and  my  lord  errle  of  Lennox,  and  yf  his  Lordship 
pass  ujjpon  the  erllis  huntlie  or  Argyill  we  shall  mak  the  holle 
number  of  viii.  thousand,  for  yf  we  laif  o^'  awiu  boundis.  It  most 
needis  that  we  laif  sum  men  keepand  theym,  and  those  at  remains 
at  hoyme  dois  the  Kingis  grace  als  good  service  in  defending 
agains  tlie  erllis  huntlie  and  Argyill  as  they  do  that  comynd  furt. 

"  Item  secondlie  my  lordis  we  exhort  your  Lordships  to 
remembr  and  consider  quhat  honorable  and  faithful  service  we 
pinit  to  do  the  Kingis  maiesties  in  o^"  Liffis  and  honor  and  quhath 
our  maister  t'  erll  of  ross  hath  refusit  all  oiferis  ofierit  unto  his 
Lordship  be  the  guvernor  and  Lordis  of  Scotland  and  in  cause  of 
our  good  lord  t'  erlle  of  Lennox  is  become  the  Kingis  graces 
sultject.  And  now  lastlie  hath  made  slachtir  burnying  of  and 
hcrschipps  upon  the  Scottis  men  takand  the  pursute  of  all  Scot- 
land upon  him.  This  my  Lordis  because  it  is  the  Kingis  graces 
and  your  Lordships  let  not  the  said  erll  of  ross  be  dethroynit  be 
the  holle  realme  of  Scotland,  for  if  his  boundis  be  destroyit,  he 
may  not  mak  the  Kingis  maiestie  so  good  service  as  he  may  quhil 
his  cuntrie  is  sawf,  and  considder  quhat  the  Kingis  maiestie 
lyekith  to  spend  in  his  grace  and  my  lord  of  Lennox  afifairis  and 
that  our  Maistir  and  Lord  is  defended  agains  the  Scottis  men,  w* 
the  grace  of  god  It  shall  redound  in  much  more  value  to  his 
maiesties  is  proffitt  honor  and  obedience,  the  qlkand  his  grace 
walden  have  of  Scotland  If  it  shal  be  socht  and  win  be  the  weast 
jDarts  and  His  in  suiretie. 

"  Item  thirdly  becaus  we  have  hard  and  considerit  quhow  that 
the  Kingis  maiestie  and  my  lord  t'  erlle  of  Lennox  hath  beyne 
defraudit  be  the  Lordis  of  Scotland,  the  quhilk  schuld  cans  the 


Kinge  graces  and  your  good  Lords  of  the  counsall  to  be  the  more 
warr  with  all  the  nation  of  Scottis,  this  for  their  frauds,  and  in 
spcciall  wyt  we  that  is  callit  the  wyld  His  of  Scotland,  for  tlic 
caiis  my  Lordis  we  besech  your  Lordships  to  have  no  sich  conscit 
in  us,  as  we  belieff  suirlie  your  Lordships  wisdom  will  not  quharfor 
your  Lardships  sail  consider  we  have  beyne  auld  enemies  to  the 
realme  of  Scotland,  and  quhen  they  had  peasthe  with  the  Kiugis 
hienes,  they  hanged  hedit  prisoned  and  destroied  many  of  our  Kyn 
friendis  and  forbears  as  testefyit  be  our  Maistir  terlle  of  ross  now 
the  Kingis  grace  subject  the  quliilk  hes  lyin  in  preson  afoir  he  was 
borne  of  his  modir,  and  nocht  releissit  wit  thair  will  bot  now 
laitle  by  the  grace  of  God.  In  likewise  the  lord  Maclane  is  fadir 
was  cruillie  murdessit  onder  ti-aist  in  his  bed  in  the  town  of 
edinbruighe  be  Sr  John  Cambell  of  Calder  brudir  to  terlle  of 
Argyill.  The  Captain  of  Clanranald  the  last  yeir  ago  in  his 
defence  slew  the  Lord  Lowett  his  sone  and  air,  his  thre  brothir 
with  xiii.  score  of  men  and  many  uther  cruel  slachter,  burnying 
and  herschcp  that  hath  betuix  us  and  the  sadis  Scottis  the  qlk 
was  lang  to  wrythe,  for  the  qlk  causis  we  are  not  able  to  agre  w* 
the  sadis  Scottismen,  and  now  most  of  all  can  thai  knaw  that  we 
ar  becom  the  Kingis  grace  subjectis  the  hatrand  wilbe  the  grittar 
betwixt  us  and  them  yan  it  was  afoir,  and 

"  Item  fourtlie  and  last  of  all  your  Lordship  to  considder  that 
sen  we  have  no  uther  refuge  bot  onlic  his  most  noble  hienes  and 
o»'  good  lord  t'  erlle  of  Lennox,  tlie  q^^  lord  and  we  hath  no  help 
bot  of  his  gracious  hienes.  And  for  the  tyme  is  most  convenient 
now  betwix  and  Christmas  to  perseue  Scotland,  and  that  we  are 
not  best  holdin  w*  wittalis,  and  most  able  to  do  theym  grittast 
skayth  in  cornis  cattell  goodis  and  biggynis  to  assay  the  said  erll 
of  Lennox  and  o^"  maistir  t'  erll  of  ross  be  the  Kingis  grace  is 
supple  And  or  his  hienes  spend  anything  that  may  do  his  Maistir 
hurt  it  shalbe  persewit  gif  our  Maistir  and  Lord  performe  as  we 
promist  in  his  name,  and  It  is  now  convenient  to  go  to  warr  nor  if 
continow  longer  becaus  off  my  Lord  terlle  of  Lennox  he  is  not  sett 
furtly  and  our  Lord  and  maistir  suppleit  now  instantlie,  our 
enemy  wilbe  the  more  bawld  uppoun  us,  and  mak  their  vavxnt  that 
our  Maister  t'  erlle  of  ross  is  service  Is  not  acceptil  be  ye,  Kinge 
hienes,  and  in  lyke  manner  the  frenchmen  will  say  that  they  hold 
the  Kingis  grace  in  sich  besynes  that  his  maiestie  may  not  supple 
o^"  Maistir  nor  persew  his  gracis  rychtis  of  Scotland  for  feir  of 
theym,  and  this  we  pray  your  Lordship  to  inform  the  Kingis 
hienes  of  the  sam,  that  the  precious  and  convenient  tyme  be  no 

378  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

lost   ye   qi'^   onis   lost   is   unretrevable   and    on    o^'   Lyffis    your 
Lordshippis  had  neir  as  good  tyme  as  now. 

"  Finale  my  Lordis  to  concluid  we  pray  your  good  Lordshepps 
to  have  us  excusit  of  our  lang  wryttand  and  barbarous  discourse 
to  consider  o''  mynd  and  not  the  wryttand  that  our  mind  is  not  to 
persuaed  your  Lordshipps  w*^  wordis,  or  to  be  desyras  of  the 
Kingis  grace  is  money  bot  It  shalbe  onderstand  be  our  good  Lord 
t'  erll  of  Lennox  and  theym  that  gois  in  his  company  as  pleses  the 
Kingis  maiestie  and  your  good  Lord  that  quhar  we  desyre  one 
crowin  of  his  hienes  we  shall  spend  thre  in  his  grace  is  service  w* 
the  grace  of  God  prayand  Christ  Jesu  to  have  ye  Kingis  maiestie 
in  keeping  and  yo''  Lordshipps,  w'^  aught  as  your  Lordshipps 
thinkis  expedient." 

The  foregoing  lengthy  statement  exhibits  a  con- 
siderable amount  of  astuteness  both  in  its  conception 
and  its  terms,  and  the  programme  laid  down,  had  it 
been  pushed  with  vigour  and  determination,  might 
have  proved  disastrous  to  the  freedom  of  Scotland. 
The  policy  of  keeping  Argyle  and  Huntly  engaged 
in  the  defence  of  their  own  territory,  by  maintaining 
an  army  in  the  Isles,  and  thus  preventing  their 
taking  part  in  the  general  defence  of  the  kingdom  ; 
the  appeal  to  Henry's  pride  not  to  delay  the  invasion 
of  Scotland  lest  the  French  should  say  that  the  war 
against  their  country  absorbed  the  whole  of  his 
resources  ;  all  this  displayed  some  diplomatic  ability, 
while  the  closing  paragraphs  give  vent  to  feelings  of 
bitterness  engendered  by  the  memory  of  past  oppres- 

The  letter  of  Donald  Dubh  to  Henry  VI H. 
concludes  the  more  important  portion  of  this  corres- 
pondence on  the  part  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles.  It 
has  never  hitherto  been  published,  and  a  document 
so  remarkable  both  as  to  form  and  substance  well 
deserves  reproduction  in  the  annals  of  the  Clan. 
The  tenour  of  this  epistle  is  as  follows  :  — 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  379 

"  To  your  most  illustrious  highness,  most  invincible  King, 
from  our  inmost  heart  we  offer  most  humble  submission.  We 
accept  truly  both  the  letter  and  the  magnificent  gift  of  your 
highness,  rejoicing  not  so  much  in  the  gift  itself  as  that  j'our 
highness  has  deigned  to  look  upon  our  low  estate,  and  receive  us 
into  favour ;  and  this  by  suggestion  of  our  singular  friend,  the 
Earl  of  Lennox,  the  true  and  vmdoubted  Governor  of  Scotland, 
with  whom  we  are  ready  even  to  the  last  day  of  our  life,  either  in 
war  or  in  peace  to  live,  yea,  if  it  should  be  necessary  to  meet 
death.  We  have  come  therefore  most  potent  prince  to  your 
Majesty's  country  of  Ireland  attended  by  4000  soldiers  in  that 
place  (and  also  wherever  your  highness  shall  wish)  according  to 
the  wish  and  desire  of  the  foresaid  Earl  to  offer  most  diligent 
service  ;  on  which  account  our  Commissioners  and  dear  friends  the 
bearers  of  these  presents  we  have  good  to  send  to  your  most 
magnificent  excellency  of  wliom  one  is  elected  to  the  dignity  of 
the  bishopric  of  the  Isles,  the  other,  a  brother  of  laird  MacLane  of 
Dowart,  bailie  of  Icolumkill  and  chief  Justiciar  of  the  Isles ;  to 
whom  equally  as  to  ourselves  we  wish  faith  to  be  given.  And 
how  great  is  the  joy  I  feel,  reflecting  in  my  mind  how  your  most 
Christian  Majesty,  imitating  the  example  of  Christ  (who  chose  not 
the  great  and  the  rich  but  the  poor  and  fishers  to  be  disciples  and 
Apostles),  hath  not  disdained  to  stoop  yourself  to  our  humble  con- 
dition although  from  our  mother's  womb  we  were  bound  in  the  yoke 
and  servitude  of  our  enemies,  and  to  this  very  time  overwhelmed 
with  the  filth  of  the  prison  and  with  intolerable  fetters  most  cruelly 
bound.  But  lest  by  excessive  and  rude  talk  I  cause  any  weari- 
ness to  your  magnificence,  one  thing  is  most  certain  that  we  by 
our  Earl  Lennox  (who  ought  to  govern  Scotland)  will  as  long  as 
we  live  be  most  obedient  and  submissive  to  your  most  Christian 
Majesty,  whom  may  Jesus  Christ  vouchsafe  to  preserve  in  pro- 
sperity of  soul  and  body.  At  Knockfergus  the  fifth  day  of  August 

"  To  your  most  invincible  highness  the  most  obedient  and 
humble  Donald  Earl  of  Ross  and  Lord  of  the  Isles  of  Scotland, 

From  the  correspondence  thus  quoted  at  some 
length,  we  learn  that  certain  definite  proposals  were 
made  to  Henry  VIII.  by  Donald  Dubh  and  his 
Council,  proposals  which  had  been  clearly  elicited  by 

380  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

previous  overtures  on  the  part  of  the  English  King. 
The  main  drift  of  the  message  borne  by  the  Com- 
missioners was  to  the  effect  that  the  territories 
claimed  by  Donald  Dubh  were  to  be  held  of 
Henry  VIII.  as  liege  Lord,  and  that  Donald  was  to 
assist  in  the  invasion  and  conquest  of  Scotland  with 
8000  men,  3000  of  whom  were  to  be  in  the  King's 
pay,  while  the  rest  were  to  be  maintained  at 
Donald's  own  chai'ges.  For  these  services  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles  was  to  receive  an  annual  pension  of 
2000  crowns,  in  addition  to  a  gift  of  1000  crowns 
already  given  him  as  a  token  of  goodwill  and  as 
an  earnest  of  future  favoiu^s.  The  first  payment 
included,  along  with  1000  crowds,  300  crowns 
additional,  which  must  have  been  either  an  instal- 
ment of  the  annual  pension  voted  by  the  English 
Privy  Council,  or  a  sum  to  account  for  the  main- 
tenance of  the  host.  Armed  with  the  fullest 
instructions,  the  two  plenipotentiaries  of  the  Lord 
of  the  Isles  set  sail  for  England. 

The  scene  of  diplomacy  next  shifts  to  the  King's 
Manor  of  Oatlands,  where  Henry  VI 11.  receives  the 
Deputies  of  Donald  Dubh  on  4th  September  of  that 
year.  The  primary  result  of  the  negotiations  con- 
ducted there  was  an  aiiTeement  arrived  at  between 
the  English  King  and  the  Commissioners  on  the 
basis  of  the  Island  Lord's  proposals.  The  agreement 
is  in  the  following  terms  : — 

"  To  all  men  to  quhome  theiss  presentis  sail  cum  be  It  known 
that  quhair  oiu'  Lord  Donald  of  the  His  and  erll  of  ross  has 
direckit  us  Lord  Macallister  elect  of  the  Ills  and  deyu  of  Morverin 
and  Maister  patrick  Maclane  brudir  german  to  Lord  Maclane 
bailzie  of  ycomkil  and  justice  clerk  of  the  South  Ilis  as  liis  com- 
missionaris  to  the  most  noble  hieast  and  victorius  prence  Henry  be 
the  grace  of  god  King  of  Ingiand  France  and  Ireland  supreme  head 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  381 

of  the  fayth  and  of  the  Churchis  of  ingland  and  Ireland  supreme 
hed  not  onlie  to  present  a  wrytting  of  en  othe  maid  to  his 
Maiestie  be  the  said  erll  of  ross  as  in  the  letters  thereof  maid 
selit  and  delyeverit  is  contenit  hot  also  has  gifFen  us  authorite  to 
promiss  and  bynd  the  said  erll  and  others  adhering  to  him  to 
observe  and  keip  sich  covenants  and  conditions  as  sal  be  be  us 
aggreit  their  unto  We  theirfore  the  said  Commissionaris  consider- 
ing the  grit  gudness  speciall  favour  and  benignite  of  the  Kingis 
said  maiestie  speciallie  that  it  plesis  the  same  to  grant  unto  the 
said  erll  a  yeirlye  pension  of  two  thousand  crownis  as  appearis  by 
his  hienes  lettres  patentis  made  of  the  same  and  that  furthermore 
his  maiestie  is  content  so  to  accepit  the  said  erll  and  uther  to  him 
adhering  unto  his  protection  as  if  ony  aggrement  be  maid  wythin 
the  realme  of  Scotland  to  comprehend  the  same  Comissionaris  doo 
promiss  for  in  the  behalf  of  the  said  erll  that  they  sail  trewlie  and 
faythfullie  serve  his  maiestie  to  their  powaris  and  to  the  anoyances 
of  the  governor  and  his  partakers  in  the  realme  of  Scotland  we 
shall  not  entre  any  practiss  of  agrement  wyth  t'  erllis  of  huntlie  or 
Argyill  or  any  of  the  realme  of  Scotland  or  other  in  their  name  or 
otherwise  to  the  Kingis  maiesti's  prejudice,  but  always  persist  and 
continow  the  Kinge  maiestis  trew  ffrinds  and  subject  wythout 
doing  any  act  to  the  contrarye  And  uthers  the  Kingis  maiestie 
sendis  at  this  present  th'  erll  of  Lennox  and  his  company  th'  erlle 
of  Osmond  and  Osserey  of  Ireland  with  a  number  of  men  to  invade 
the  realm  of  Scotland  and  besides  general  annoyance  to  be  doon  in 
burnying  herwing  and  spoiling  as  they  have  opportunitie  contre 
so  farre  as  Stirling  iff  they  may  see  the  enterprise  faisable  The 
said  Comissionaris  promiss  that  the  said  erll  an  others  to  him 
adhering  shall  furnishe  presentlie  in  the  said  enterprise  to  goo 
under  the  rule  and  leading  of  the  said  erll  of  Lennox  VIII 
thousand  men  so  long  as  the  said  erll  of  Lennox  shall  remayn  in 
the  countrey  of  the  erlle  of  Argyill  and  for  the  tyme  the  said  erll 
of  Lennox  shall  be  in  any  other  parte  of  Scotland  the  said  erll  of 
ross  and  others  shall  furnishe  only  VI  thovisand  and  tother  II 
thousand  to  be  employed  otherwise  at  home  in  the  noyaunce  of 
the  said  erll  of  Argilis  country  in  the  meane  season  In  which 
case  the  kingis  maiestie  is  content  uppon  such  service  doon  to 
allowe  unto  the  said  erll  and  others  besides  the  number  furnished 
at  the  kingis  maiesti's  charge  out  of  Ireland  wage  for  throe 
thousand  of  their  said  men  for  the  space  of  two  monthis  after  such 
rate  as  highnes  is  accustomed  to  pay  to  his  own. 



"  In  witnes  hereof  we  have  subscribed  these  presentis  with  our 
own  hande  and  sette  the  seal  of  the  said  erll  our  Master  delyward 
by  him  unto  us  for  that  purpose  at  the  Kingis  manor  of  Otland  ye 
fourt  daye  of  September  ye  yeyr  of  God  anno  fourtie  fyef  yeyrs." 

«^    ,V-<p.*H^  J^  ^   ^^ 
cf-^  >h;-u*v-  ^W^ 


The  Commissioners  from  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  in 
addition  to  the  foregoing  agreement,  bore  with  them 
a  letter  direct  from  Henry  in  answer  to  that  which 
Donald  had  sent  to  the  English  King  a  month  pre- 
viously.    This  letter  is  in  the  following  terms  : — 

"  Right  trusty  and  right  well  beloved  Cousyn  we  grete  you 
well  and  late  you  wite  that  we  have  recyved  your  letters  and  Avid 
of  your  submission  to  our  service  and  allegeaunce  made  by  our 
welbeloved  the  Bishop  elect  of  thyles  and  the  lord  Maclane's 
brother  which  we  have  taken  in  verrye  good  and  thankfull  parte 
And  we  have  harde  the  credence  which  they  had  to  declaire  unto 
us  on  your  behaulf  and  having  communed  thereupon  with  our 
right  trusty  and  right  welbeloved  Cousin  therlle  of  Lennox  and 
the  rest  of  our  counsall  we  have  made  such  an  honorable  answar 
to  the  same  as  you  shall  have  good  cause  in  reason  to  be  contented 
likeas  presently  our  said  cousin  of  Lennox  at  his  coming  hither 
and  the  said  bishop  and  the  lord  Maclane's  brother  will  signify 
unto  you  shall  proyve  by  such  writinge  as  they  bringe  with  them 
Praying  you  good  Cousin  to  proceed  like  a  noble  man  to  the 
revenge  of  such  dishonoures  as  your  enemyes  and  ours  to  have 
doon  both  to  you  and  to  us  and  to  retrieve  the  same  as  moch  as 
you  can  and  you  shall  well  prove  that  you  have  given  yourself  to 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  383 

the  servyce  of  such  a  Prynce  as  will  consider  your  welldoing 
herein  and  the  good  service  which  you  shall  minister  unto  us  in 
this  behalf  has  the  same  shall  redound  to  your  own  benefit  and 
comeditie  Given  under  our  signet  at  o'"  manor  of  Oteland  the 
nyth  daye  of  September  the  xxxvii*^  yere  of  our  Reign." 

A  letter  in  precisely  similar  terms  was  addressed 
by  Henry  to  Hector  Maclean  of  Dowart,  whose 
name  appears  at  the  beginning  of  the  list  of  Island 
barons,  and  who  seems  to  have  taken  a  leading  part 
in  all  the  negotiations  coiniected  with  Donald  Dubh's 
rebellion  and  his  treaty  with  the  English  Govern- 
ment. He  seems  to  have  naturally  stepped  into  his 
hereditary  position  as  Seneschall  or  Steward  of  the 
Isles,  and  his  well-known  ability  in  war  and  council 
qualified  him  to  be  Donald's  chief  adviser  during  his 
brief  and  troubled  rule.  The  Commissioners  of  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles,  Roderick  MacAlister,  Dean  of 
Morvern,  and  Patrick  Maclean,  Justiciar  of  the 
South  Isles,  having  carried  out  to  the  letter  the 
instructions  wherewith  they  had  been  charged, 
returned  to  Knockfergus.  It  was  understood  that 
the  Earl  of  Lennox  was  to  lead  an  expedition  against 
the  West  of  Scotland,  assisted  by  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  with  eight  thousand  men.  It  was  stipulated, 
in  terms  of  the  agreement  already  quoted,  that  so 
long  as  Lennox  remained  in  the  country  of  Argyle, 
the  forces  of  Donald  were  to  aid  him  in  undiminished 
strength,  but  on  his  proceeding  to  any  other  part  of 
Scotland,  he  should  be  accompanied  by  six  thousand 
men.  It  was  also  arranged  that  the  Earl  of  Ormond 
should  levy  two  thousand  "  kerns  and  gallowglasses" 
to  assist  Lennox  in  his  campaign,  while  the  Irish 
Privy  Council  made  all  necessary  preparations  to 
equip  this  force  for  military  duty. 

Matters  were  thus  maturing  rapidly  for  an  inva- 
sion of  Scotland  in  force,  and  vexed  as  that  country 

384  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

was  at  the  time  by  civil  and  religious  discord,  it  is 
hard  to  say  what  the  result  might  have  been  had  not 
circumstances  intervened  to  postpone  decisive  action. 
At  this  particular  moment  the  Earl  of  Hertford  was 
preparing  to  invade  Scotland,  and  for  some  reason 
which  history  does  not  record,  Lennox,  along  with 
other  Scottish  nobles  in  the  English  interest,  was 
summoned  to  his  camp.  Lennox,  who  seems  all 
along  to  have  displayed  a  lack  of  promptitude  and 
resolution,  lingered  among  his  English  friends,  and 
his  procrastination  proved  fatal  to  the  projected 
descent  upon  the  West  of  Scotland.  Donald  Dubh 
and  his  Council  had  all  along  pressed  upon  their 
English  allies  the  necessity  of  immediate  action  if 
success  was  to  crown  their  efforts,  but  now  the 
golden  opportunity  was  lost,  and  the  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  after  waiting  for  Lennox  till  his  own  patience 
and  that  of  his  followers  was  exhausted,  and  becom- 
ing concerned  about  his  own  interests  in  Scotland, 
returned  thither  with  his  army.  Shortly  thereafter 
discord  and  contention,  the  inevitable  percursors  of 
failure,  began  to  appear  among  the  barons  of  the 
Island  Council.  The  distribution  of  the  gold  given 
by  Henry  YIII.  for  the  payment  of  a  section  of  the 
Highland  army  awakened  murmurings  and  discon- 
tent. Hector  Maclean,  Lord  of  Dowart,  had  been 
entrusted  with  the  disbursement  of  the  funds,  but 
whether  the  distribution  was  not  impartially  con- 
ducted, or  some  other  unrecorded  causes  operated,  it 
is  clear  that  the  treasure-laden  Argosy,  which, 
according  to  M'Vurich,^  came  from  England  to  the 
Sound  of  Mull,  had  a  demoralising  effect  upon  the 
unity  and  loyalty  of  Donald  Dubh's  following,  and 

^  Reliquiie  CelLicio,  vol.  II.,  p.  167. 

..■aNV10N3    JO    ONIX    3HX    HJ-IM    J.V3aX    OX 
ONVIJ-OOS  JO  S31SI   3HX  JO  OaOl   3HX   WOdd   NOISSIWIMOO ,,    3HX  OX  SNOava   QNVnSI   3HX  JO  SaanXVNOlS  3HX  dO  3niWlS-OVd 




■%   I  .^    5-^0 ^^     •?( 

^1  i 


his  once  formidable  array  became  a  dissolving  scene 
of  anarchy,  and  melted  away  like  a  snow  wreath  in 

When  the  Earl  of  Lennox  arrived  in  Ireland  he- 
found,  not  only  that  the  armament  on  which  he  so 
much  relied  had  quitted  Knockfergus  for  the  Isles, 
but  that  on  arriving  at  its  native  shores  it  had  been 
dispersed,  resolved  into  its  constituent  elements. 
He,  however,  determined  to  avail  himself  of  the 
force  that  was  being  organised  by  the  Earl  of 
Ormond,  under  instructions  of  the  Irish  Privy 
Council,  for  the  invasion  of  Scotland,  and  pending 
the  completion  of  the  preparations,  he  despatched 
Patrick  Colquhoun  with  a  few  vessels  to  the  Isles, 
with  the  view  of  ascertaining  whether  Douald  Dubh 
remained  loyal  to  Henry,  and  if  an  army  could  still 
be  raised  to  help  in  the  projected  invasion.  On  the 
17th  November  Lennox  sailed  from  Dublin  with  a 
considerable  and  well-equipped  fleet  and  2000  Irish 
soldiers,  with  the  Earl  of  Ormond  in  command. 
Meanwhile  the  Castle  of  Dunbarton,  one  of  the  main 
objects  of  the  intended  attack,  had  been  delivered 
into  the  hands  of  the  Regent,  and  the  Earls  of 
Lennox  and  Ormond,  on  learning  this,  as  well  as 
becoming  fully  aware  of  the  hopeless  disorganisation 
among  the  barons  of  the  Isles,  seem  to  have 
abandoned  aggressive  action  in  the  West.  The 
records^  from  which  we  derive  much  of  our  know- 
ledge of  Scottish  history  in  this  age  break  off 
abruptly  in  October,  1545,  and  we  are  left  in  com- 
parative ignorance  of  many  of  the  events  that 
followed.  According  to  MacVurich,  Donald  Dubh 
accompanied  the  Earl  of  Lennox  back  to  Ireland, 
with  the  view  of  raising  a  new  force  for  the  pursuit 

^  State  papers. 


386  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  his  cause  in  the  Scottish  Isles  ;  but  we  gather 
from  the  same  authority  that  on  his  way  to  Dubhn 
he  died  at  Drogheda  of  a  fever  of  five  nights.     Mac- 
Yurich  says  that  he  left  neither  son  nor  daughter, 
but  according  to  the  documents  in  the  State  Paper 
Office,  already  quoted  at  such  length,  in  his  dying 
moments  he  bequeathed  his  affection  to  the  English 
King,  to  whom  also  he  commended  the  care  of  his 
natural   son.^      Thus    died    Donald    Dubh,  after    a 
gallant  though  unsuccessful  struggle  to  recover  and 
maintain  the  power  and  possessions  of  his  fathers. 
He  cannot  justly  be  blamed  for  disloyalty  to  Scot- 
land and  trafiicking  with  her  foes  ;  for  if  Scotland 
was  his  mother  country,  she  acted  from  his  infancy 
as  a  cruel  and   relentless  stepmother,  to  whom  he 
owed  neither  gratitude  nor  affection,  but  who  had 
robbed  him  of  his  patrimony,  cradled  him  in  a  prison, 
and  placed  the  stigma  of  illegitimacy  on  his  name. 
Loyalty  among  those  of  his  time  who  owed  more 
than  he  did  to  their  country,  was  scarce  as  roses  in 
December,  and  it  was  not  to  be  expected  in  one  who, 
like  the  last  of  the   House  of  Isla,   had  been   the 
victim  of  half-a-century  of  wrong.      Donald  Dubh 
must  liave  inherited  much  of  the  intrepidity  of  his 
father  when  his  ardour  was  not  quite  crushed  by 
fifty  years  of  confinement.     Instead  of  suffering  his 
spirit  to  be  broken,  his  courage  survived  the  squalor 
and  th©  fetters,  the  lion  though  caged  was  a  lion 
still,  and  as  soon  as  he  trod  his  native  heather,  he 
shows  the  imperial  spirit  of  his  race  by  taking  the 
place  which   by  rights  was  his  at  the  head  of  the 
vassals  of  the  Isles.     The  Earl  of  Lennox  paid  every 
mark   of  respect   to   the   memory  of  the  departed 
chief,  and    his    obsequies    were    celebrated    with   a 

^  Gregory's  History  ad  tcmjjus. 


magnificence  acceptable  to  the  minds  of  his  Island 

We  have  it  on  the  authority  of  Tytler^  that 
Donald  Dubh,  having  left  no  legitimate  heir  of  his 
body,  nominated  as  his  successor  to  the  Lordship 
of  the  Isles  James  Macdonald  of  Dunnyveg,  and 
that,  notwithstanding  the  fact  that  he  alone,  among 
the  Highland  chiefs,  refrained  from  following  his 
banner.  That  his  brother  Angus,  however,  appears 
among  the  barons  of  the  Isles  who  constituted  the 
court  of  the  late  Lord  seems  to  indicate  that  the 
Chief  of  Clann  Iain  Mhoir  may  have  been  at  heart, 
if  not  ostensibly,  in  sympathy  with  the  movement. 
The  Chief  of  Sleat  was  a  minor,  and  in  the  unsettled 
condition  of  affairs,  if  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  had 
any  chance  of  being  maintained  upon  the  old  footing 
it  must  be  represented  by  a  capable  and  mature 
head.  Failing  a  descendant  of  Donald  of  Harlaw 
to  succeed  Donald  Dubh,  the  representation  natur- 
ally devolved  upon  the  head  of  the  family  of  John 
Mor  Tainistear. 

The  Earl  of  Lennox,  who  still  contemplated  the 
conquest  of  Scotland,  sent  messengers  to  the  Isles 
with  intimation  of  Donald's  death,  as  well  as  his 
nomination  of  his  successor,  and  shortly  thereafter 
James  Macdonald  of  Dunnyveg  was  elected  by  the 
clansmen  to  assume  the  vacant  honour.  We  find, 
however,  that  while  the  cadet  families  of  Macdonald 
favoured  his  pretensions,  the  majority  of  the  other 
vassals — including  such  powerful  chiefs  as  Maclean, 
Macleod  of  Lewis,  Macleod  of  Harris,  along  with 
the  Macneills,  Mackinnons,  and  Macquarries — were 
opposed  to  the  election."  A  reaction  had  set  in 
against  the  English  alliance,  and  the  Highland 
Chiefs,  beginning  to  anticipate  the  probable  failure 

^  Vol.  v.,  p.  406.  '^  Gregory  ad  tempvs. 

388  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  English  designs  in  Scotland,  were  endeavouring 
to  make  their  peace  with  the  Regent  Arran. 

Meanwhile  the  messengers  of  Lennox  returned 
to  Dublin  bearing  letters  from  James  Macdonald 
of  Dunnyveg,  "  which  now  declareth  himself  Lord 
of  the  Isles  by  the  consent  of  the  nobility  of  the 
Lisulans  as  the  bearers  affirm,"  to  the  Privy  Council 
of  Ireland.  On  their  arrival  at  the  Irish  capital 
on  the  10th  February,  1546,  a  plenipotentiary  from 
the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg,  who  accompanied  the 
messengers  to  Ireland,  was  dispatched  at  the 
request  of  the  new  Lord  to  deliver  an  important 
letter  to  the  King  of  England.  This  letter  was 
in  due  course  delivered,  and  as  it  represents  the 
last  flickering  flame  of  Celtic  sovereignty  in  the 
Isles,  its  precise  terms  may  here  be  quoted  : — 

"Att  Ai'iiamurchau,  the  24th  day  of  Januar,  the  yeh'  of 
God  ane  thowsand  fyef  huudyr  46  yeir 
"  We  James  McConaill  of  Dunnewaik  and  ye  glinnis,  and 
aperand  aeyr  of  ye  Yllis  grantis  us  to  sene  speciall  letter  deretik 
fra  your  Lordschip  to  owr  knyis  men  and  alyas  thchyng  the  efFecte 
and  forme  of  yair  promyssis  to  ye  Kyng  of  Ynlandis  Majeste  to 
fortyfe  and  suple  our  noble  cusyng  Mathew  Erie  of  Lennox. 
Quairfoir  we  exort  and  prais  your  Lordschip,  my  Lord  Deput  of 
Yrland,  with  ye  weill  awyissit  Consall  of  Duply n,  to  schaw  in  owr 
behalf  and  exprem  to  ye  Kingis  Majeste,  that  we  are  reddy,  eftir 
our  extrem  power,  our  Kinyesman  and  alya  namely  our  cusyng 
Alan  McKlayn  of  Gyga,  Clanronald,  Clanechanroun,  Clancayn, 
and  our  awin  sowrname,  bayth  north  and  sowth,  to  tak  ane  pairt 
with  ye  said  Erll  of  Lenox,  or  ony  oder  qwhat  sumever,  ye  Kingis 
Majeste  plaissis,  to  have  autyrize  or  constitut  be  his  grace,  in 
Scotland  ;  leilly  and  trewly  the  foirsaid  Kingis  Majeste  sendand 
pairt  of  power  to  us,  in  company  with  ye  said  Erll  of  Lenox  in  ane 
honest  army  to  ye  Yll  of  Sanday,  besyd  Kintyer,  at  Sanct  Patrikis 
day  next  to  cowm,  or  yairby,  athowe  ye  said  maist  excellent  Prence 
gifFand  to  us  his  Majestes  raward  and  sikar,  band  conformand  and 
equivalent  his  Gracis  band  maid  to  our  cheyf  maister  Donald  Lord 
Yllis,  whom  God   asolzeit,  ye  quhilk  deid  in  his  Graceis  serwece 

THE    CLAN    DONALD    UNDER   JAMES    V.  389 

yis  beand  acceptibill  promist  and  admittit,  we  require  twa  or  thre 
schyppis  to  be  send  to  us  to  ye  abowen  expromit  place,  with  yeis 
berar  Hector  Donaldsone,  beand  ane  pylayt  to  ye  sammyn,  20 
dayes  or  yo  army  cowmcs,  that  we  might  be  foruest  and  gadderit 
agayns  ye  comyng  of  ye  said  army  ;  to  quhawm  plais  your  Lord- 
schip  geif  firm  credence  in  our  behalf.  And  for  kepying  and 
obserwyng  of  yir  presente  promittes,  desyring  siklyke  formaly  to 
be  send  to  us  with  ye  said  schippis,  we  haif  affixit  our  proper  seill 
to  the  samyng,  with  our  subscription  manuall,  the  day,  zeir,  and 
place  abown  expremit. 

"James  McConil  of  Dunnewaik  and  Glennis." 

The  overtures  of  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg  did  not, 
so  far  as  we  can  gather,  meet  with  any  response 
from  the  EngUsh  King  or  his  Council.  The  reasons 
for  this  oversight,  so  inconsistent  with  Henry's 
policy  in  the  past,  are  to  be  found  in  contemporary 
history.  For  one  thing,  the  Earl  of  Lennox,  who  the 
previous  year  had  by  his  delay  on  the  English 
borders  led  to  the  failure  of  Donald  Dubh's  rebellion 
now  by  undue  haste  rendered  abortive  the  proposals 
of  the  new  Lord  of  the  Isles.  Without  waiting  for 
the  return  of  his  own  envoy  from  the  Isles  bearing 
communications  from  James  Macdonald  of  Dunny- 
veg, he  had,  with  the  Earl  of  Ormond,  led  an 
expedition  to  the  Western  Isles,  which  eventually 
succeeded  in  nothing,  because  it  had  attempted 
nothing  beyond  a  naval  demonstration  ;  and  now 
when  the  messengers  from  Macdonald  arrived  at 
Dublin,  the  absence  of  Lennox,  who  was  the  main- 
spring of  Henry's  designs  and  the  chief  instrument 
of  his  policy  in  Scotland,  proved  disastrous  to  the 
new  undertaking.  On  the  other  hand,  Henry  VIII. , 
deeply  engrossed  in  the  intrigues  with  the  Scottish 
nobles  that  led  to  the  murder  of  Cardinal  Beaton, 
found  his  hands  too  fall  to  permit  attention  to  the 
particular   detail   of  his   policy  which    affected  the 

390  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Isles  of  Scotland.  It  was  not,  we  suppose,  that  he 
underestimated  the  importance  of  this  particular 
card  in  the  diplomatic  game  which  he  was  playing, 
but  he  seems  to  have  put  oif  consideration  of  it  to  a 
more  convenient  season.  By  the  time  he  was 
prepared  to  take  it  up  again,  the  Lord  of  Dunnyveg 
had  abandoned  his  claim.  Having  met  with  no 
active  co-operation  from  England  in  vindicating  the 
position  to  which  he  was  elected,  he  took  no  overt 
action,  subsided  once  more  into  the  attitude  of  a 
loyal  subject,  and  was  restored  to  favour  with  the 
Scottish  Regent.  This  was  the  final  episode  in  the 
eventful  history  of  the  Island  Lordship,  and  with  it 
passed  away  the  last  vestige  of  hope  among  the 
Clan  Donald  vassals  that  the  ancient  principality, 
which  had  withstood  the  political  storms  of  ages, 
might  yet  be  restored. 




Structure  of  Celtic  Society. — The  Council  of  St  Finlaggan. — 
Accounts  of  Proclamation  of  Lords  of  the  Isles. — An  Inde- 
pendent Mortuath. — Tanistry. — The  Toshach. — The  Judge. 
— Officials. — Relation  to  the  Land. —  The  Tribe-lands. — 
Demesne  and  Church  Lands. — Law  of  Gavel. — The  Nobility 
and  Commonalty. — -Mackintosh  Charter. — Herezeld  Blodwite. 
— Ward  and  Relief. — Marriage  Law. — Hand-fasting. — State 
and  Wealth  of  Island  Princes. 

The  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  as  must  appear  to  our 
readers,  was  the  most  considerable  survival  in 
Scotland  of  the  old  Celtic  system  which  in  earlier 
ages  so  widely  prevailed.  It  was  on  account  of  the 
truly  Celtic  character  and  spirit  of  the  heads  of  the 
House  of  Isla  and  their  maintenance  of  the  traditions 
of  the  Gael,  that  the  distinctively  Celtic  elements  of 
society  throughout  the  Western  Highlands  clung  so 
tenaciously  to  the  order  of  things  represented  in  the 
institutions  of  the  Island  Lordship.  We  have  seen 
that  the  history  of  this  principality  was  to  a  large 
extent  a  conflict  between  the  two  sets  of  social 
forces  represented  by  the  words  Celt  and  Saxon. 
In  the  course  of  our  narrative  it  was  felt  to  conduce 
to  clearness  if  we  dealt  separately  and  with  greater 
minuteness  with  those  characteristics  of  Gaelic 
society  embedded  in  the  systems  that  prevailed 
under  the  Clan  Donald  chiefs.  We  therefore 
propose  in  this  chapter  to  glance,  not  exhaustively 
or  with  great  or  original  research,  at  the  structure 

392  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  Celtic  social  polity  and  at  the  conditions  of  social 
life,  as  both  these  are  connected  directly  or  indirectly 
with  the  history  of  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles.  It 
can  hardly  be  expected  that,  in  a  country  where 
Celticism  and  Teutonism  co-existed  so  long  during 
ages  of  which  the  social  history  is  very  obscure,  we 
should  be  able  to  find  the  former  flourishing  in  a 
condition  unaffected  by  the  predominant  influence 
of  the  latter.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  much  of  our 
knowledge  regarding  the  ancient  Celtic  polity  of 
Scotland  is  arrived  at  by  inference  and  deduction, 
aided  by  what  is  known  of  other  Celtic  lands  such 
as  Ireland  and  Wales,  rather  than  from  actually 
ascertained  facts.  The  evidence  is  to  a  large  extent 
circumstantial  rather  than  direct.  Our  enquiries 
must  be  begun,  continued,  and  ended  amid  circum- 
stances largely  conditioned  by  feudal  influences,  and 
in  the  midst  of  these  we  can  obtain  but  occasional 
and  dim  conceptions  of  Celtic  polity  in  its  pristine 

Feudalism  had  gained  a  thorough  ascendancy 
in  Scotland  in  the  twelfth  century,  when  the  ('Ian 
Cholla  emerge  out  of  the  obscurity  in  which  the 
Norse  occupation  had  placed  them,  and  although 
Somerled  and  his  descendants  strenuously  opposed 
its  encroachments  upon  their  own  domains,  that 
system  was  gradually  becoming  the  most  powerful 
influence  in  the  political  life  of  the  country.  In 
one  respect,  viz.,  their  relation  to  the  Crown, 
Celticism  and  feudalism  produced  similar  results. 
If  the  great  feudal  baron,  the  lord  of  wide  acres, 
who  through  his  ownership  of  the  soil  wielded 
supreme  power  over  his  vassals,  often  acted  as  an 
independent  ^Drince,  the  great  Highland  chief,  who, 
as  head  of  his  tribe,  possessed  their  undying  homage, 


was  equally  disposed  to  assert  his  independence  ; 
and  at  some  critical  periods  l)oth  proved  equally 
dangerous  to  the  authority,  and  even  the  existence, 
of  the  State. 

In  considering  the  structure  of  Celtic  society,  we 
may  naturally  expect  that  the  growth  and  develop- 
ment of  the  system  should  proceed  according  to  the 
analogy  of  all  organic  progress.  In  nature  we  find 
organisms  adapting  themselves  to  their  environment, 
and- the  functions  which  their  surroundings  compel 
them  to  discharge  inevitably  lead  to  the  development 
of  special  organs.  The  complex  oi-ganism  of  society 
is  no  exception  to  the  rule,  and  it  will  be  found  that 
the  peculiarities  of  Gaelic  society  owe  their  special 
form  and  character  to  the  exigencies  of  its  history. 
In  early  times,  and  before  the  growth  of  those  great 
and  manifold  industries  which  have  arisen  in  modern 
times,  and  are  not  directly  connected  with  pastoral 
or  agricultural  pursuits,  society  was  solely  dependant 
upon  the  primary  products  of  the  soil.  Hence,  as 
might  be  expected,  the  organisation  of  ancient 
society,  with  its  gradation  of  ranks  and  differentia- 
tion of  functions  and  offices,  was  conditioned  by  its 
relation  to  the  occupancy  of  land.  As  of  other 
branches  of  the  great  Aryan  Family,  this  is  true  of 
the  two  kindred  branches  of  that  family,  the  Celt 
and  the  Teuton.  Much  of  the  philosophy  of  their 
social  development  is  found  in  their  respective 
methods  of  occupying  and  possessing  land.  While 
there  are  certain  resemblances,  as  might  be  expected, 
between  the  land  system  of  the  Celt  and  of  the 
Teuton,  we  find  also  wide  and  deeply-seated  distinc- 
tions. There  are  two  leading  types  of  land  tenure 
to  be  met  with  in  the  ancient  history  of  nations,  one 
or  other  of  which  is  characteristic  of  all  European 

394  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

nations — indeed,  it  may  almost  be  said  of  ail  nations 
— one  of  which  may  be  described  as  feudal  and  the 
other  as  tribal.  According  to  the  former  of  these, 
the  land  was  the  absolute  property  of  the  overlord, 
who  exacted  from  the  occupiers  military  service,  or 
such  commutation  thereof  as  he  might  accept, 
while,  according  to  the  latter,  the  land  was 
the  property  of  the  community  or  tribe,  whose 
patriarchal  head  or  chief  exercised  superiority  over 
it  in  name  and  on  behalf  of  the  tribe.  Variations  of 
each  of  these  types  no  doubt  are  observable,  owing 
to  the  mingling  of  races  and  the  consequent  modifi- 
cation of  culture  and  institutions  which  now  and 
then  occurred  during  the  progress  of  so  many  ages  ; 
but  the  systems  stand  out  clear  and  distinct  in  their 
main  character  and  outlines.  It  seems  fairly  well 
proved  by  the  learned  researches  of  the  best 
authorities  that  the  land  system  of  Teutonic  nations 
was  feudal,  and  that  of  Celtic  nations  tribal  and 
patriarchal.  The  vassal  of  the  feudal  baron  owed 
allegiance  to  him,  not  as  the  head  of  his  race,  but  as 
the  superior  of  the  land  he  occupied ;  while  the 
Celtic  vassals  owed  allegiance  to  their  chief,  not 
primarily  as  the  lord  from  whom  they  derived  the 
right  to  till  the  soil  or  pasture  their  flocks,  but  as 
the  head  of  the  race  to  which  they  owed  their  origin. 
This  tribal  tenure,  with  its  various  characteristics, 
became  in  historic  times  subject  to  many  modifica- 
tions, through  its  contact  with  the  feudal  system, 
but  its  main  features  are  not  difficult  to  perceive  ; 
and  it  is  interesting  to  observe  this  common  pro- 
perty in  land  surviving  in  the  township  system  which 
prevails  to  some  extent  in  the  crofting  areas  of  the 
Western  Isles. ^     A  modern  writer,  one  of  the  most 

^  Skene's  Celtic  Scotland,  vol.  III.,  p.  378,  et  seq. 


learned  of  our  Scottish  historians,  seeks  to  minimise 
the  distinctions  between  the  social  polity  of  the 
Teuton  and  the  Celt.^  He  does  not  admit  that  the 
definition  of  "  patriarchal"  at  all  applies  to  the  latter 
as  distinguished  from  the  former,  and  he  maintains 
that  the  land  tenure  of  the  Celt  is  not  based  upon  the 
principles  of  the  community,  in  which  all  share  alike, 
but  upon  those  of  the  kingdom,  with  its  various 
gradations  both  of  property  and  rank.  While  it  is 
possible  unduly  to  accentuate  the  differences  between 
the  two  phases  of  polity,  it  is  equally  so  to  ignore 
those  differences.  The  principles  of  the  kingdom  are 
no  doubt  traceable  in  the  structure  of  Celtic  society, 
but  this  does  not  imply  that  the  relation  of  the  com- 
munity to  the  land  was  ought  else  than  tribal,  and 
this  we  hope,  in  some  measure,  to  indicate  in  the 
course  of  the  present  chapter. 

The  Lordship  of  the  Isles  having  survived  as  a 
form  of  Celtic  polity  for  hundreds  of  years  after  the 
dissolution  of  the  great  tribes  or  Mortuaths  of  Scot- 
land, affords  us  at  some  points  an  interesting  light 
upon  the  social  life  of  the  Gael  in  ancient  times. 
Hugh  Macdonald,  the  Seanachie  of  Sleat,  has  con- 
ferred a  boon  upon  the  students  of  Highland  history 
if  for  naught  else  for  the  record  he  has  left  of  the 
crowning  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  as  well  as  of  the 
Council  of  Finlaggan,  with  its  gradations  of  social 
rank.^  The  proclamation  of  the  Kings  of  Innse-Gall 
was  a  ceremony  of  much  display  and  pomp,  as  well  as 
affording  evidence  of  the  poetic  symbolism  character- 
istic of  the  people.  The  Bishops  of  Argyle  and  the 
Isles,  on  account  of  their  territorial  connection  with 
these  Island  magnates,  gave  the  benediction  of  the 

^  Robertson's  Scotland  under  her  Early  Kings,  vol.  11.,  ji.  197,  tt  aeq. 
-  Collect,  dc  Reb.  Alb.,  p.  29(3-97. 

396  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Church  to  the  function,  while  the  Chieftains  of  all 
the  families  and  a  ruler  of  the  Isles  were  also  present 
on  the  occasion.  The  newly  proclaimed  King  stood 
on  a  square  stone  seven  or  eight  feet  long,  with  a 
foot-mark  cut  in  it,  and  this  gave  symbolic  expression 
to  the  duty  of  walking  uprightly  and  in  the  footsteps 
of  his  predecessors,  while  his  installation  into  his 
dignities  and  possessions  was  also  in  this  fashion  set 
forth.  He  was  clothed  in  a  white  habit  as  a  sign  of 
innocence  and  integrity  of  heart,  and  that  he  would 
be  a  light  to  his  people  and  maintain  the  true 
religion.  The  white  apparel  did  afterwards  belong 
to  the  poet  by  right,  probably,  though  the  seanachie 
does  not  say  so,  that  it  might  i aspire  him  to  sing  of 
the  heroes  of  the  past.  Then  he  was  to  receive  a 
white  rod  in  his  hand,  the  whiteness  indicating  that 
though  he  had  power  to  rule  it  was  not  to  be  with 
tyranny  and  partiality,  but  with  discretion  and 
sincerity.  Then  there  was  given  to  him  his  fore- 
fathers' sword,  signifying  that  his  duty  was  to  protect 
and  defend  his  people  from  the  incursions  of  their 
enemies  in  peace  or  war,  as  the  customs  and  obliga- 
tions of  their  predecessors  were.  The  ceremony 
being  over,  mass  was  said  after  the  blessing  of  the 
Bishop  and  seven  priests,  the  whole  people  pouring 
forth  their  prayers  for  the  success  and  prosperity  of 
their  newly  created  Lord.  When  they  were  dis- 
missed the  Lord  of  the  Isles  feasted  them  for  a  week 
thereafter,  and  gave  liberally  to  the  monks,  poets, 
bards,  and  musicians. 

The  foregoing  description  is  in  almost  all  its 
details  identical  with  Martin's  account  of  the  cere- 
monial prevalent  early  in  the  eighteenth  century  in 
connection  with  the  entrance  of  a  new  chieftain 
upon  the  Government  of  his  clan.     The  Lordship  of 


the  Isles  had  fallen  about  two  hundred  years  previous 
to  this  time,  yet  the  custom  of  his  day  is  carefully 
modelled  upon  the  time-honoured  ceremony  of  the 
crowninof  of  the  Lords    of  the    Isles  ;  and   Martin 
having  been  by  birth   and  upbringing  a  Skyeman 
and  a  native  of  Troternish,  it  is  highly  probable  that 
he  refers  to  the  inauguration  of  the  barons  of  Sleat 
into  the  Chiefship  of  Clan  Uisdein.     The  only  vari- 
ation  is   that    the   young   chieftain   stood    upon    a 
pyramid  of  stones  while   his  friends  and   followers 
stood   round  about    him   in    a  circle,   his   elevation 
signifying    his    authority    over    them,     and    their 
standing  below  their  subjection  to  him,  also  that 
immediately  after  the  proclamation  of  the  chief,  the 
chief  Druid  (or  Orator)  stood  close  to  the  pyramid 
and  performed  a  rhetorical  panegyric  setting  forth 
the  ancient  pedigree,  valour,   and  liberality  of  the 
family  as  incentives  to  the  young  chieftain  and  fit 
for  his  imitation.      Hugh  Macdonald  indicates  the 
presence  of  the  bard  at  the  older  ceremonial,  though 
he  says  nothing  about  the  metrical  effusion  in  which 
the  event  must  always  have  been  celebrated.     The 
office  of  the  bard  had  also  been  closely  associated 
with  the  coronation  of  the  Celtic  Kings  of  Scotland, 
and  even  after  the  days  of  David  I.,  when  a  feudal 
monarchy  was  firmly  established  on  the  throne,  the 
Celtic  ceremonial  continued  in  use  after  the  feudal 
observances  were  concluded,  and  the   bard   recited 
the   royal  genealogy  in    Gaelic    to   show    that  the 
Kings  ruled  over  the  realm  of  Scotland  by  the  right 
of  long  descent,  and  as  the  representatives  of  the 
line  of  Alban's  Kings.^     The  coronation  stone  seems 
to  have   been    a    common   feature   of  these    Celtic 
celebrations,  and  in  the  stone  on  St  Finlaggan  Isle 

1  Robertson's  Scotlaiid  uuder  the  Eaiiy  Kings,  vol.  XL,  !>.  54. 

398  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

we  liave  something  similar  to  the  lia  fail,  or  stone 
of  destiny,  still  to  be  seen  beneath  the  coronation 
chair  at  Westminster,  a  survival  of  the  immemorial 
custom  among  ancient  peoples  of  marking,  by  monu- 
ments of  stone,  events  which  they  desired  to  keep  in 
perpetual  remembrance.  That  the  ceremony  thus 
described  by  the  authorities  quoted  was  based  upon 
ancient  Irish  usage  seems  to  be  beyond  question, 
and  there  is  evidence  that  the  custom  survived  in 
Ireland  as  late  as  the  sixteenth  century,  and 
probably  existed  there  up  to  a  later  day.  Edmund 
Spenser,  author  of  the  "  Fairy  Queen,"  who  spent 
many  years  in  that  country  as  secretary  to  Lord 
Grey  of  Wilton,  gives  an  account  of  the  installation 
of  a  chief  among  the  Irish,  which  by  reason  of 
its  confirmation  of  the  statements  of  Highland 
authorities  is  deserving  of  literal  quotation  : — 
"  They  use  to  place  him  that  shall  be  their  Captain 
upon  a  stone  always  reserved  to  that  purpose,  and 
placed  commonly  upon  a  hill.  In  some  of  which 
I  have  seen  formed  and  engraven  a  foot ;  whereon 
he,  standing,  receives  an  oath  to  preserve  all  their 
ancient  former  customs  inviolate  ;  and  to  deliver  up 
the  succession  peaceably  to  his  Tanist ;  and  then 
hath  a  wand  delivered  to  him  b}^  some  whose  proper 
office  that  is,  after  which,  descending  from  the  stone, 
he  turneth  himself  round  thrice  forwards  and  thrice 
backwards."^  Hugh  Macdonald  does  not  inform  us 
where  the  coronation  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles 
actually  took  j^lace,  but  the  inference  to  be  drawn 
from  his  description  is  that  Eilean  na  Coinihairle, 
the  Island  of  Council,  was  the  scene  of  that  cere- 
monial. There  would  be  no  reason  to  doubt  such  a 
conclusion  were  it   nut  that  the  only  other  reference 

^  View  of  Ireland,  by  Edmund  Spenser. 


to  the  Proclamation  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  locates 
the  crowning  of  Donald  of  Harlaw  at  Kildonan,  in 
the  Island  of  Eigg.  While  this  was  undoubtedly 
the  case,  we  think  it  still  the  more  probable  view 
that  the  islet  on  Loch  St  Finlaggan,  with  its  table 
of  stone,  and  its  place  of  judgment,  close  by  the 
larger  isle,  on  which  stood  the  chapel  and  palace  of 
the  kings,  must  have  been  the  scene  of  the  historic 
rite,  and  that  the  proclamation  of  Donald  as  Lord 
of  the  Isles  at  Kildonan  must  have  arisen  out  of 
conditions  which  at  this  time  of  day  it  is  difficult  to 
estimate.  It  seems,  however,  that  the  Isle  of  Eigg 
must  have  been  regarded  as  a  suitable  place  of 
gathering  for  the  vassals  of  the  Isles,  for  we  find  the 
Council  of  Donald  Dubh  assembled  there  in  1545, 
when  they  appointed  Commissioners  to  treat  with 
Henry  VIIL  It  is  to  be  noted  that  the  place  of 
sepulture  for  the  wives  and  children  of  the  Lords  of 
the  Isles  was  on  the  larger  isle  on  Loch  Finlaggan, 
while  the  Island  potentates  themselves  were  always 
borne  in  solemn  state  to  the  sacred  Isle  of  Hy. 

The  supplementary  passage  to  that  in  which  the 
historian  of  SI  eat  records  the  proclamation  of  the 
Lords  of  the  Isles,  and  in  which  he  describes  the 
constitution  of  the  Council  of  Finlaggan,  is  also 
worthy  of  consideration  in  any  review  of  the  social 
history  of  the  Island  Lordship.  The  constitution 
or  government  of  the  Isles,  he  says,  was  thus  : — 
"  MacDonald  had  his  Council  at  Island  Finlaggan  in 
Isla  to  the  number  of  16,  namely,  four  thanes,  four 
armins,  that  is  to  say,  four  lords  or  sub-thanes,  four 
bastards  (i.e.)  squires  or  men  of  competent  estates, 
who  could  not  come  up  with  Armins  or  Thanes,  that 
is  freeholders  or  men  that  had  the  land  in  factoiy  as 
Magee  of  the  Kinds  of  Isla,  MacNicoll  in  Portree  in 

400  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Skye,  and  MacEachren  MacKay  and  MacGillivray 
in  Mull.  There  was  a  table  of  stone  where  this 
Council  sat  in  the  Isle  of  Finlaggan  ;  the  whole 
table  with  the  stone  on  which  MacDonald  sat 
were  carried  away  by  Argyle  with  the  bells  that 
were  at  Icolmkill.  Moreover,  there  was  a  judge  in 
every  Isle  for  the  discussion  of  all  controversies  who 
had  lands  from  MacDonald  for  their  trouble  and 
likewise  the  11th  part  of  every  action  decided.  But 
there  might  still  be  an  appeal  to  the  Council  of  the 
Isles.  MacFinnon  was  obliged  to  see  weights  and 
measures  adjusted,  and  MacDuffie  or  Macphee  of 
Colonsay  kept  the  Records  of  the  Isles." 

We  have  here  a  complete  and  self-contained 
system  of  Gaelic  polity  representing  in  outline  the 
action  of  a  free  and  autonomous  principality.  The 
question  naturally  arises,  whence  does  it  come  ?  and 
before  entering  with  any  minuteness  into  the  condi- 
tion of  things  adumbrated  by  the  Seanachie,  it  may 
be  desirable  to  point  out  the  historical  relation  of 
the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  to  the  rest  of  Celtic 
Scotland.  On  this  point  it  will  be  unnecessary  to 
dwell  at  length,  inasmuch  as  certain  aspects  of  it 
were  dealt  with  in  an  early  chapter.  Historians  are 
agreed  that  Scotland,  during  the  period  of  the  Picts 
or  ancient  Caledonians,  was  divided  into  seven 
provinces,  all  owning  the  supremacy  of  one  Ardrigli, 
or  high  King,  while  each  of  the  provinces  was  under 
the  government  of  a  king  of  less  dignity  and  power 
than  the  supreme  head,  called  Oirrigh,  but  who 
within  his  own  dominions  exercised  something 
approaching  absolute  power.  Two  of  the  leading 
authorities  are  somewhat  at  issue  as  to  one  at  least 
of  the  leading  features  of  Celtic  polity  in  the  great 
provinces  or  Mortuaths.     Dr  Skene  maintains  that 


these  petty  kingdoms  under  their  Mormaors  endured 
as  part  of  the  national  Celtic  system,  until  it  gave 
way  in  the  eleventh  and  twelfth  centuries  before  the 
establishment  of  a  feudal  monarchy,  and  that  these 
Mormaors    were    their    hereditary    rulers.^       Dr    J. 
Stewart,  on  the  other  hand,  upholds  the  view  that  the 
seven  provinces  of  Celtic  Scotland  disappeared  with 
the   Union  of  Dalriada  and  Pictavia  in  the  ninth 
century ;    that    this    fusion    of   the    two    kingdoms 
resulted    in    a   large    increase    of    the    power    and 
possessions    of    the    suj)reme    King,    owing    to    the 
annexation    of  considerable    portions    of  tlie   tribe- 
lands   to   the  crown,  and  that  the   Mormaors  were 
not  the  hereditary  kings  or  provincial  orrighs,  but 
stewards   appointed    by  the  crown  and   answerable 
for  the  crown  dues.     In  most  cases  the  hereditary 
rulers  stepped  into  the  fiscal  office.    We  are  disposed 
to  adopt  the  views  of  Dr  Stewart  on  this  matter  as 
that   best   borne    out   by  the    ascertained    facts    of 
history.     It  is,  on  the  whole,  the  more  feasible  view 
that  the  seven  divisions  disa23j)eared  as  hereditary 
principalities  or  kingdoms  after  the  Pictish  monarchy 
was  replaced  by  the  Scoto-Irish  dynasty  of  Kenneth 
MacAlpin,  and  that  Southern  Scotland  became  one 
state  with  an  undivided  rule.     It   also  seems  well 
established  that  it  is  only  after  this  period  of  national 
consolidation   that  there  is  any  record  of  the  title 
Mormaor  being  used,  that  being  the  time  ax  hypothesi 
that  these  provincial  officers   came   into  existence  ; 
while  in    Galloway  and    Lothian,   which   were  not 
united    with     Scotia     until    after    the     period    of 
Mormaors,    such    a   name   never  appears.     On    the 
whole   there  seems    no    sufficient    evidence    of  any 
trace  either  in  Gaelic  history,  poetry,  or  tradition 

^  Skene's  Celtic  Scotland,  vol.  III.     The  Book  of  Deer,  preface,  pp.  7S,  70. 


402  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  the  term  Maor  or  Mormaor  as  applied  to  the 
chief  or  king  either  of  a  province  or  tribe,  certainly 
not  to  any  of  the  hereditary  rulers  of  Argyie  and 
the  Isles,  which  Dr  Skene  reckons  as  one  of  the 
seven  ancient  provinces  of  Alban.  The  term  Maor, 
whether  Mor  or  otherwise,  always  means  an  officer 
acting  under  some  superior  authority  for  the  adminis- 
tration of  law,  or  the  collection  of  rates  or  dues,  or 
some  other  civil  or  ecclesiastical  purpose.  Dr  Skene 
emphasises  the  significance  of  a  passage  in  the  Book 
of  Deer  in  whicli  the  names  of  the  seven  Mormaors  of 
Buchan  appear  as  flourishing  during  the  five  centuries 
between  the  foundation  of  the  Celtic  monastery  in 
the  time  of  Columba  and  the  reign  of  David  I.,  and 
this  he  regards  as  a  confirmation  of  his  view.  It 
must  be  borne  in  mind,  however,  that  the  historical 
entries  in  the  Book  of  Deer  were  written  in  the 
eleventh  century,  three  hundred  years  after  the 
Mormaors,  according  to  our  view,  had  superseded 
the  Orrighs  or  provincial  Kings,  and  the  name  had 
long  become  the  traditional  title  of  these  ancient 
reguli,  and  as  a  part  of  the  social  system  were  only 
passing  away.  It  was  very  natural,  therefore,  for 
the  writer  to  describe  the  ancient  hereditary  rulers 
of  Buchan  in  the  terms  most  intelligible  in  his  own 

In  what  relation  did  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  and 
the  community,  of  which  they  were  the  heads,  stand 
to  the  general  system  of  Celtic  Scotland  ?  Dr 
Skene's  theory  that  the  reguli  of  Argyie,  Somerled 
and  his  predecessors,  were  the  representatives  of  the 
Mormaors  of  Oirthirghael,  and  that  the  tribe  over 
which  they  reigned  formed  one  of  the  seven  great 
communities  of  ancient  Pictdom,  would  no  douljt  fit 
in  symmetrically  with  his  main  historical  induction. 


We  have  not,  however,  disputed  the  general  trend 
of  GaeUc  and  Irish  tradition,  that  the  Hne  of  Somer- 
led  was  a  branch  of  the  Scoto-Irish  race,  owning 
allegiance  to  the  Kings  of  Dalriada  during  the 
separate  existence  of  that  dominion,  but  after  the 
ninth  century  becoming  the  chief  Dalriadic  family  in 
Oirthirghael  and  Innse-Gall.  This  question  has  been 
already  discussed  by  us,  but  we  wish,  in  this  con- 
nection, to  lay  stress  upon  the  fact  that  the  branch 
of  the  Clan  Cholla,  represented  by  the  tribe  of 
Somerled,  rose  into  eminence  after  the  disappearance 
of  t]:ie  seven  provinces  that  constituted  the  national 
system  of  Scotland,  and  that,  therefore,  their 
position  was  absolutely  unique.  Hence  it  was 
that  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  never  formed  part 
of  the  old  system  of  Caledonia,  and  that  these 
kings  of  the  Western  Gael  were  for  ages  inde- 
pendent princes,  owning  no  allegiance  to  Celtic  or 
Saxon  potentate. 

Before  proceeding  further  in  our  review  of  the 
political  elements  embraced  in  the  Lordship  of  the 
Isles,  it  is  desirable  that  we  should  at  this  sta.g'e 
touch  briefly  and  in  a  general  way  upon  some  of  tlie 
features  of  the  tribal  organisation  of  the  Celt,  after 
which  we  shall  enquire  how  far  these  features  are  to 
be  met  with  in  the  history  of  the  Island  Lordship. 
The  social  unit  was  the  Tuath  or  Cineol,  while 
several  Tuaths  constituted  a  Mortuath  each  with  its 
King,  while  in  Scotland  the  seven  Mortuaths  were, 
as  already  stated,  subject  to  the  one  Ardrigh.  The 
structure  of  society  in  Ireland  was  very  much  after 
the  same  type,  save  that  instead  of  seven  provinces 
there  were  but  five,  each  of  which  was  called  a 
coigcamh  or  fifth,  while  these  provinces,  well  known 
in  Highland  legendary  lore  as   Coir/  Clioigeamh   na 

404  THE   CLAN    DONALD. 

h-Eirinn,  were  all  subject  to  one  Ardrigh,  who 
swayed  the  sceptre  in  Tara.  The  Kingdom  of 
Dalriada  in  Scotland  embraced  too  small  a  territory 
to  constitute  so  large  a  social  organism.  It  never 
attained  to  more  than  the  dimensions  of  a  mo^'tuath, 
consisting  of  three  tribes  or  Cineol,  viz.,  Cineol 
Lorn,  Cineol  Gabhran,  Cineol  Eoghainn,  though  it 
always  had  its  independent  kings.  Again,  within 
the  Tuath  there  arose  the^ne  or  sept,  a  miniature 
of  the  larger  polity,  in  which  its  features  were 
reproduced  ;  in  fact,  throughout  the  tribal  organisa- 
tion of  the  Celt,  from  the  congeries  of  Cineols  which 
formed  the  Kingdom,  down  to  the  fine  or  sept,  a 
unity  of  type  and  idea  prevailed.  The  head  of  a 
tribe,  or  of  the  series  of  tribes  constituting  a  mor- 
tuath,  occupied  that  position  in  virtue  of  his  descent 
from  the  founder  of  the  race,  whether  mythical  or 

While,  however,  the  headship  of  a  race  always 
remained  in  one  particular  family — so  long  as  a  male 
representative  of  a  race  existed  capable  of  succeeding, 
the  succession  did  not  descend  from  father  to  son 
in  the  more  primitive  stages  of  Celtic  culture. 
It  proceeded  according  to  the  law  of  Tanistry,  a 
principle  which,  in  view  of  the  causes  that  produced 
it,  was  a  fundamental  element  of  Celtic  society. 
In  accordance  therewith,  brothers  succeeded  prefer- 
ably to  sons ;  and  this  for  two  reasons.  The  root 
idea  of  the  system  lay  in  the  connection  of  the  tribe 
with  its  founder,  and  the  Chief  or  King  held  his 
position  as  head  of  the  race  on  account  of  his  com- 
parative nearness  of  kin  to  the  founder.  But  the 
brother  was  a  step  or  generation  nearer  the  founder 
than  the  son,  and  for  this  reason  his  claim  to  succeed 
was    considered    stronger.      There    was,    however. 


another,  and  for  practical  purposes  a  stronger  reason 
than  sentiment  for  the  operation  of  this  law  of 
succession.  As  distinguished  from  feudalism,  with 
its  well-nigh  absolute  property  in  land,  and  its 
absolute  claim  upon  the  service  of  the  vassals,  the 
patriarchal  system  was  largely  limited  by  the  will 
and  interests  of  the  tribe.  The  chief  was  the  father 
of  his  people,  but  his  paternity  must  be  exercised 
for  the  good  of  the  entire  family,  and  whether  this 
ideal  was  actually  fulfilled  or  not  in  individual 
instances,  it  was  the  principle  upon  which  the  Celtic 
system  was  based.  He  was  the  superior  of  the  land 
for  the  people,  and  in  all  other  respects  was  supposed 
to  rule  in  a  manner  productive  of  the  greatest 
happiness  of  the  greatest  number.  It  was,  no 
doubt,  from  this  fusion  of  the  interests  of  the  Chief 
and  his  clan,  and  the  absence  of  anything  like  an 
iron  despotism  ;  from  this  enlargement  of  the 
family  idea  centred  in  the  head  and  realised  more 
or  less  by  all  the  members,  that  sprang  that  devoted 
attachment  to  the  person  of  the  Chief  which  char- 
acterised the  Highlanders  as  a  race.  Now,  in  this 
law  of  succession  by  Tanistry,  matters  were  ordered 
in  the  interests  of  the  community.  Self-preservation 
is  an  elementary  law  of  nature  in  society  as  well  as 
in  the  individual,  and  here  we  meet  with  an  appli- 
cation of  the  law  by  which  society  developes  its  life 
according  to  the  exigencies  of  its  environment.  The 
welfare  of  a  tribe  and  its  retention  of  its  possessions 
largely  depended  upon  its  having  a  chief  of  mature 
years  and  tried  valour,  capable  of  administering  its 
internal  affairs  in  time  of  peace  and  of  leading  its 
hosts  to  battle  when  threatened  by  the  foe.  Thus 
it  came  to  pass  that  in  order  to  obviate  the  possi- 
bility of  having  a  minor  as  chief,  it  became  a  settled 

400  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

law  of  Celtic  polity  that  during  the  lifetime  of  every 
chief,  a  brother  or  the  nearest  male  representative 
of  the  family  was  installed  into  the  position  of 
Tanist,  who,  upon  the  chiefship  becoming  vacant, 
immediately  and  indisputably  stepped  into  the 
vacant  place.  The  feudal  law  of  primogeniture  may 
have  controlled,  and  of  course  largely  did  control, 
the  later  phases  of  Celtic  life  in  Scotland  ;  but  the 
law  of  Tanistry  was  undoubtedly  the  old  law  of 
succession,  and  amid  the  din  of  controversy  which 
sometimes  assails  our  ears  as  to  the  chiefship  of 
Highland  clans,  it  seems  to  be  often  overlooked  that 
primogeniture  cannot  be  regarded  as  the  sole  or 
even  the  main  principle  to  guide  the  settlement  of 
the  question. 

We  have  ample  evidence  of  the  existence  of  the 
law  of  Tanistry  in  the  succession  of  the  Celtic  Kings 
of  Scotland  disclosed  in  the  Albanic  Duan,  and  it  is 
interesting  to  notice  that  in  the  controversy  between 
the  elder  Bruce  and  Balliol  for  the  Crown,  the 
former  bears  testimony  to  the  existence  in  former 
times  of  this  tanistic  law.  Bruce's  third  pleading 
was,  "that  the  manner  of  succession  to  the  Kingdom 
of  Scotland  in  former  times  made  for  his  claim,  for 
that  the  brother  as  being  nearest  in  degree  [ratione 
2Droximitatis  in  gradu)  was  wont  to  be  preferred  to 
the  son  of  the  deceased  King.  Thus  when  Kenneth 
M'Alpin  died,  his  brother  Donald  was  preferred  to 
his  son  Constantino  ;  thus  when  Constantine  died, 
his  brother  Edh  was  preferred  to  his  son  Donald, 
and  thus  the  brother  of  Malcolm  III.  reigned  after 
him  to  the  exclusion  of  the  son  of  Malcolm  III."^ 
As,  however,  the  succession  always  remained  in  the 
same  family,  it  very  generally  came  back  again,  by 

^  Skene's  Higlxlanders  of  Scotland,  vol.  I.,  p.  160, 


the  operation  of  the  same  law,  to  the  surviving  son 
of  the  chief  wiio  had  formerly  been  passed  over.  Dr 
Skene  quotes  a  curious  passage  from  an  old  chronicle, 
which  sheds  an  interesting  light  upon  the  same 
question.  ^  1 1  informs  us  that  there  was  an  ancient  law 
by  which  "in  case  that  the  children  of  the  deceissand 
suld  not  have  passit  the  aige  of  fourteen  zeirs,  that 
he  of  the  blude  wha  was  nerrest  beand  worthie  and 
capable  suld  be  elected  to  reign  during  his  lyffe, 
without  prejudice  of  the  richteous  heretouris  whan 
they  atteinit  the  parfite  age."  We  learn  from  this 
writer  that  a  considerable  modification  had  taken 
place  in  the  law  of  succession  in  his  time.  The 
tanist  in  this  case  occupied  the  position  of  regent, 
and  only  when  the  son  of  the  chief  was  a  minor  did 
he  assume  the  reigns  of  government.  It  thus 
appears  that  in  course  of  time  the  sentiment  which 
confined  the  succession  to  the  generation  next  of  kin 
to  the  founder  was  beginning  to  lose  its  force,  and 
that  the  practical  question  alone  was  considered,  how 
to  secure  a  capable  head  for  the  tribe.  It  is  note- 
worthy that  the  early  age  of  fourteen  years  was  not 
considered  too  young  for  a  son  to  succeed  to  the 
headship  of  a  clan.  While  the  choice  of  Tanist 
usually  fell  upon  the  oldest  brother  of  the  last  chief, 
circumstances  were  always  considered,  and  in  the 
case  of  age  or  physical  incapacity  or  any  kind  of 
unworthiness,  the  clan  or  tribe  was  supposed  to 
possess  a  residuum  of  power,  by  which,  in  cases  of 
emergency,  it  made  its  own  selection.  In  virtue  of 
this  ultimate  authority,  cases  have  been  known,  in 
comparatively  modern  times,  in  which  power  was 
exercised  for  the  deposition  of  chiefs  who  proved 
unworthy  of  their  position,   and   whose  sway   was 

1  The  Highlanders  of  Scotland,  vol.  I.,  p.  161. 

408  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

intolerable  to  the  vassals.  Instances  entirely 
analogous  are  to  be  met  with  in  the  history  of  the 
British  dynasty,  which,  although  hereditary  in  its 
occupancy  of  the  throne,  has  yet,  in  the  person  of 
individual  monarchs,  been  removed  from  the  position 
by  the  common  and  irresistible  sentiment  of  the 

The  Tanist  was  thus  a  recognised  functionary  in 
the  political  system  of  the  ancient  Celt,  and  by 
reason  of  his  position  as  the  heir  apparent  of  the 
chief  he  was  specially  provided  for  out  of  his  estate. 
It  was  the  immemorial  custom  that  a  third  part 
of  the  chief's  income  should  be  set  apart  for  him — ■ 
trian  Tiglieamais — the  third  part  of  a  lordship  the 
old  Highlanders  used  to  call  it.  Tanistry  thus  arose 
out  of  the  necessity  that  the  tribe  should  have  a 
capable  man  of  ma.ture,  or,  at  any  rate,  of  competent 
age  at  its  head.  As  the  military  head  of  his  race — 
that  being,  of  course,  the  most  important  aspect 
of  his  position — the  chief  was  denominated  the 
Toshach,  a  word  obviously  corresponding  with  the 
Gaelic  word  for  first,  viz.,  toiseach,  which  in  turn  is 
derived  from  tus,  signifying  beginning.^  In  the 
course  of  time  the  tendency  of  society  is  to  become 
more  complex,  and  for  its  officials  to  increase  in 
number.  Hence  the  function  of  Toshach  came  to  be 
separated  from  the  chief  and  became  the  hereditary 
position  of  the  oldest  cadet  family  of  the  tribe. 
Under  the  peculiar  system  of  gavel,  which  falls  to 
be  considered  later  on,  the  family  longest  separated 
from  the  main  stem,  and,  consequently,  whose 
property  was  least  subject  to  division,  possessed 
its  territories  in  the  greatest  integrity,  and  became 
the  most  outstanding  in  influence  and  estate  next 

^  The  Welsh  equivalent  of  Toshach  is  Twj'sog. 


to  that  of  the  chief  himself.  Hence  it  was  the 
most  fitted  to  produce  a  leader  or  lieutenant-general 
for  the  tribe,  to  go  before  its  fighting  men  when  the 
day  of  danger  dawned.  The  same  necessity  that 
resulted  in  the  appointment  of  a  tanist  or  successor 
to  the  chief,  also  when  ofl[ices  became  more  widely 
differentiated,  produced  the  military  captain  or 

That  the  designation  of  Toshach  was  also  inter- 
changeable with  the  Saxon  title  Thane  seems  to  be 
made  clear  by  Dr  Skene's  researches  into  the 
system  of  thanages  elucidated  in  his  edition  of 
Fordun's  Scotichronicon.^  There  seems  little  or  no 
reason  to  doubt  that  the  ancient  thanages,  of  which 
numerous  traces  remained  in  the  South  and  West  of 
Scotland  in  the  reigns  of  Malcolm  Canraore's  sons, 
were  the  survival,  under  a  Saxon  designation,  of  the 
ancient  Tuaths  or  tribe-lands  which  existed  under 
the  old  polity  of  Celtic  Scotland,  but  which  were 
attached  to  the  crown.  With  the  reigns  of  Malcolm 
Canmore  and  his  successors  Saxon  culture  was 
beginning  to  impress  Scottish  institutions,  and 
while  the  tribe  or  Tuath  retained  many  of  its  Celtic 
characteristics,  these,  until  we  examine  the  social 
texture,  are  apt  to  be  concealed  from  us  under 
the  disguise  of  Saxon  terminology.  Thus  it  was 
that  the  Mormaor,  the  successor  of  the  Kino-  or 
R-igh  Mortuath,  the  head  of  each  of  the  sevenfold 
divisions  of  Scotland,  was  replaced  by  the  Earl 
or  Comes,  and  the  High  Tuath  or  King  of  the 
smaller  tribe  came  to  be  designated  Thane  or  Maor. 
An  interesting  proof  of  the  identity  of  the  old 
thanages  with  the  Gaelic  Tuaths,  and  of  Thane 
with  Toshach,  is  given   by  Dr  Skene  in  his  larger 

1  The  Hi.storiiins  of  Scotland,  vol.  IV.,  441-4G0, 

410  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

and  later  work  on  Celtic  Scotland.  When  the 
Earl  of  Ross  was  forfeited  in  1475,  the  lands  of 
William  Thane  of  Cawdor,  who  was  a  vassal  of 
the  Earldom,  were  erected  into  a  new  thanage 
with  the  privileges  of  a  barony  ;  certain  lands  in 
the  parish  of  Urquhart,  in  the  Black  Isle,  detached 
from  the  old  thanage,  were  incorporated  in  the  new, 
and  these  lands  are  to  this  day  designated  locally 
and  by  the  Gaelic  people  Fearann  na  Toiseachd, 
i.e.,  Ferintosh,  the  land  of  the  thanage,  evidence  of 
the  ancient  tribal  organisation  over  which  the  Eigh 
Tuath  or  Toshach  or  Thane  in  ancient  times  held 
sway.  The  title  more  generally  applied  within 
historical  times  to  a  chief  or  laird,  and  corresponding 
with  Thane  or  Toshach,  was  Tighearn,  which  con- 
veyed the  idea  of  lordship,  and  of  which  the  Welsh 
equivalent  is  Teyrn,  both  evidently  cognate  with 
the  Greek  Turannos.  The  word  Tighearn  must 
have  been  originally  applied  to  the  highest  royal 
dignitary,  and  this  is  indicated  by  the  application 
universal  among  the  Gael  of  the  same  term  to  the 
Supreme  Being.  Though  we  find  the  same  designa- 
tion used  with  regard  to  chiefs  in  a  state  of 
vassalage,  this  is  only  an  instance  of  the  retention 
of  a  name  after  it  has  ceased  to  be  strictly  applicable. 
So  far,  then,  we  have  glanced  at  the  two  higher 
grades  of  Celtic  society,  the  Righ  Mortuath,  who 
became  the  Mormaor,  and  was  still  further  feudal- 
ised into  the  Comes  or  Earl,  who  had  his  lands 
in  capite  from  the  King,  and  the  High  Tuath,  who 
was  also  the  Toshach,  and  became  feudalised  into 
Maor  or  Thane,  responsible  for  the  rents  and 
revenues  of  a  thanage.  The  character  of  a  patri- 
archal chief  has  thus  been  subject  to  a  certain  course 


of  development.  He  is  not  only  the  father  of  his 
tribe,  but  its  military  leader,  and  under  feudal 
influences  becomes  an  official  with  fiscal  duties 
and  responsibilities  to  discharge.  The  exigencies  of 
society  have  also  compelled  a  devolution  of  functions. 
The  military  leadership  devolves  upon  the  oldest 
cadet,  who  becomes  the  official  Toshach,  but  we  find 
that  the  Toshach  has  civil  duties  to  perform  as  well, 
that  to  his  hands  are  committed  the  responsibility 
for  the  fiscal  administration  of  the  Crown  lands 
within  the  chiefs  domains. 

Another  important  function  which  originally 
rested  in  the  chief  was  that  of  judge.  In  this,  as  in 
other  respects,  the  patriarcli  of  the  tribe  was  tlie 
fountain  of  authority,  and  was  known  of  old  in 
Wales  and  Ireland  as  the  Brennin  or  Brehon.  Here 
also,  both  among  the  Cymric  and  Gaelic  Celts,  there 
seems  to  have  been  a  separation  of  the  judicial  from 
the  military  and  other  functions  of  the  chief,  and  a 
devolution  of  the  same  upon  functionaries  specially 
set  apart.  The  AVelsh  Cynghellwr,  the  Manx 
Deempster,  and  the  Toshachdeorach  of  Gaelic  Scot- 
land, bear  testimony  to  this  fact. 

Having  thus  briefly  indicated  the  first  degree  of 
rank  in  the  polity  of  a  Celtic  tribe,  with  some  of  the 
functions  and  offices  connected  therewith,  we  have 
arrived  at  a  stage  at  which  we  can  more  conveniently 
discuss  the  relation  of  the  Chief  to  the  occupancy  of 
the  land,  as  well  as  the  rights  pertaining  to  his  tribe. 
As  already  stated,  the  land  belonged  to  the  com- 
munity, but  the  Chief  exercised  a  certain  superiority 
or  lordship  over  it,  not  in  his  individual  and  private 
capacity,  but  as  head  and  in  name  of  the  tribe.  In 
the  earlier  stages  of  Celtic  society,  private  property 
in    land    did   not   exist,   even    on    the    part   of  the 

412  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

patriarchal  head.  Individual  property  was  confined 
to  what  in  modern  parlance  is  known  as  personal  or 
moveable  estate,  such  as  cattle,  sheep,  goods  and 
chattels.  Private  property  in  land  was  an  innova- 
tion on  primitive  Celtic  culture — the  Chief  having 
in  olden  times  only  the  same  right  of  pasturage  and 
of  the  allotment  of  agri cultural  land  awarded  in  the 
annual  division.  The  land  was  owned  by  the  Chief 
and  his  kindred  in  common,  and  all  within  the  limit 
of  three  generations  from  the  head  of  the  race  had  a 
claim  upon  the  family  inheritance.  As  each  genera- 
tion passed  away,  or  upon  the  death  of  the  head  of 
the  house,  a  fresh  division  of  the  Orba,  or  inherit- 
ance, took  place,  those  entitled  to  a  share  being 
designated  Aeloden  among  the  Welsh,  and  Flaith, 
or  nobles,  among  the  Gaelic  Celts.  This  division 
took  place  upon  the  principle  of  gavel,  a  law  not 
confined  to  Celtic  races,  but  more  tenaciously 
adhered  to  by  them  than  by  their  Saxon  neighbours. 
The  division  of  land  among  the  nearest  kindred  of 
the  Chief  had  the  effect  of  modifying  the  practical 
operation  of  a  common  property  in  land,  and  pro- 
moted the  growth  of  an  aristocracy  or  privileged 
caste,  who  became  in  time  privileged  owners  of  the 
soil.  The  Orba,  or  inheritance  land,  did  not  exhaust 
the  property  of  the  tribe  ;  for,  in  addition  thereto, 
there  was  the  tribe-land  proper,  occupied  by  the 
Ind-jine,  the  commonalty,  who,  though  of  the  same 
race  as  the  Chief  and  his  immediate  kindred,  were 
yet  beyond  the  degrees  of  consanguinity  that  con- 
stituted a  claim  upon  the  special  property  of  the 
kindred.  This  was  the  duchas,  or  immemorial 
right  of  the  clan,  free  from  taxation,  which,  under 
the  early  feudal  Kings  of  Scotland,  became  attached 
to  the  Crown.     This,  according  to  Dr  Skene,  and  he 


has  excellent  grounds  for  the  opinion,  constituted 
the  Saxon  thanages.  The  tribe  lands  were  partly 
agricultural  and  partly  pastoral,  the  latter  being- 
grazed  according  to  the  number  of  cattle  possessed 
by  each,  and  the  former  being  subject  to  periodical 
division,  when,  owing  to  the  death  of  former  occu- 
pants and  the  emergence  of  new  claimants,  a 
redistribution  became  necessary. 

Along  with  the  Saor-chlann,  the  free  members  of 
tribe,  who  held  their  untaxed  duchas  land  in  virtue 
of  a  real  or  supposed  consanguinity  with  the  royal 
race,  there  usually  existed  the  daor-chlaiin,  or,  as 
they  have  also  been  termed,  the  native  men,  or 
Laetic  population.  These  consisted  of  tribes  or 
septs  who  had  lost  their  rights  through  conquest, 
and  became  subject  to  the  conquering  clan,  or  took 
refuge  in  some  neighbouring  territory.  In  the 
former  case,  having  lost  their  freeborn  rights, 
whether  oi  Duchas  or  Orba,  owing  to  the  subjuga- 
tion of  the  Chief  through  whom  all  their  privileges 
flowed,  they  became  virtually  bondmen,  subject  to 
any  servitude  or  taxation  imposed  upon  them,  their 
only  surviving  privilege  consisting  of  the  inborn 
right  to  remain  upon  the  land.  These  usually 
obtained  land  from  the  Flaith,  or  nobles,  and  in 
Ireland  were  termed  Fuidhir.  They  constituted 
the  bands  known  in  Irish  history  as  Galloglach,^  or 
Galloglasses,  who  followed  the  chiefs  to  war.  They 
were  not  only  subject  to  compulsory  military  service, 
but  also  to  taxation  in  kind,  particularly  the  calpe, 
a  word  signifying  a  horse  or  cow,  the  exaction  being 
usually  paid  in  this  special  form.  Members  of  the 
clan  were  not  supposed  to  pay  this  tribute.     From 

^  Probably  meauiiig  stranger  servants— from  (VaW  =  stranger,  and  Ofjlacli, 
in  its  secondary  sense,  a  servant  man. 

414  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  relation  of  these  broken  clans  or  stranger  septs 
to  the  dominant  races  arose  those  peculiar  conven- 
tions known  as  bonds  of  manrent,  in  which,  for 
services  rendered  by  the  subject  parties  to  the 
superiors,  the  latter  undertook  their  protection 
within  their  jurisdiction. 

We  have  seen  how  the  division  of  the  Orba,  or 
inheritance  lands,  upon  the  succession  of  a  new  Chief, 
was  always  kept  within  the  limits  of  three  genera- 
tions. Consequently,  although  in  each  instance  the 
fourth  in  descent  was  not  included  in  the  distribution 
of  the  ancestral  property,  yet  he  not  improbably 
might  fare  better  than  had  he  been  so  included. 
He  inherited  his  father's  allotment  as  a  separate  and 
fixed  inheritance,  not  subject  to  the  periodical  sub- 
division which  rendered  the  tenure  of  Celtic  nobles 
so  fluctuating  and  uncertain.  From  the  ranks  of 
the  nobles,  therefore,  there  sprang,  and  was  con- 
tinually recruited,  a  class  of  landholders  inferior  to 
the  Flaith,  but  still  of  gentle  birth,  called  among 
the  Irish  Gaels  Saertach  or  Brugaidh,^  among  the 
Scottish  Gael  Ogtiern,  signifying  primarily  a  young 
lord,  but  coming  secondarily  to  mean  an  inferior 
grade  of  lord.  This  class  was  the  ancient  represen- 
tative of  the  modern  tacksman,  both  being  kinsmen 
of  the  Chief,  and  both  at  times  converting  their  tack 
into  a  chartered  freehold  when  feudal  land  tenure 
came  into  operation.  It  is  also  intelligible  that  as 
the  ranks  of  the  Ogtierns  were  continually  swelled 
by  descendants  of  the  nobility,  so  members  of  this 
inferior  grade  of  Flaith  supplied  the  ranks  of  the 
commonalty  with  fresh  blood  when  the  periodical 
division  of  the  agricultural  lands  came  about. 

^  Brugaidh  was  originally  the  member  of  an  Irish  clan  who  possessed  a 
Brwjh,  or  homestead  with  a  holding. 


In  addition  to  the  lands  already  specified — the 
inheritance  and  tribe  lands  proper — there  was  a 
third  class  of  lands,  which  may  be  described  as 
official.  There  being  little  or  no  money  in  these 
early  times,  land  and  its  products  constituted  the 
wealth  of  society,  and  those  for  whom  the  Tuath 
found  it  necessary  to  provide  were  endowed  with  an 
interest  in  the  soil.  Thus  the  Chief  and  Tanist  had 
to  be  maintained  in  a  manner  suited  to  their  lofty 
station,  and  for  this  purpose,  along  with  the 
residence  of  the  hereditary  head  of  the  race,  there 
was  set  apart  the  tribe  demesne-lands  for  the  sup- 
port of  the  royal  dignity.  The  same  rule  applied  to 
the  judges  and  bards,  for  whom  special  provision 
was  made  out  of  the  tribe  lands  ;  and  when  Christi- 
anity obtained  a  footing  in  the  country,  and  churches 
with  their  religious  establishments  were  planted  here 
and  there  under  the  protection  of  the  great  Celtic 
Chiefs,  donations  out  of  the  inheritance  lands  were 
bestowed  for  the  maintenance  of  the  Christian  com- 
munity. An  interesting  quotation  from  the  Brelion 
laws  indicates  the  view  taken  of  the  institutions  of 
the  Celt  in  those  far  off  times  : — "  It  is  no  Tuath 
without  three  noble  privileged  persons,  Eclais  or 
Church,  Flath  or  Chief,  and  Jih  or  poet."  The 
judge  is  not  mentioned  in  this  quotation,  but  pos- 
sibly the  function  of  judging  may  still  have  been 
vested  in  the  Ard  Flath  when  the  saying  was  first 
uttered.  The  Church  lands  possessed  many  privi- 
leges, and,  on  account  of  their  sacred  destination, 
were  regarded  as  conferring  a  right  of  sanctuary  to 
all  who  were  fortunate  enough  to  obtain  a  refuge 
within  their  consecrated  borders.  On  the  principle 
of  the  cities  of  refuge  of  Old  Testament  times,  even 
should  the  avenger  of  blood  be  in  pursuit  of  his  foe, 

416  THE    CLAN    DONALi). 

once  the  latter  planted  his  feet  within  the  holy 
domain,  the  hand  of  violence  at  once  was  stayed. 
On  some  notorious  occasions  sanctuaries  have  been 
outraged,  but  in  those  ages  of  blood  and  vengeance 
the  deterrent  power  of  bhe  Comraich^  must  have 
exercised  a  salutary  influence. 

Having  thus,  with  as  much  brevity  as  is  con- 
sistent with  clearness,  endeavoured  to  point  out 
some  of  the  leading  features  of  Celtic  polity,  it 
remains  for  us  to  shew  under  this  branch  of  our  sub- 
ject how  far  the  relations  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  to 
the  community  over  which  they  ruled,  illustrate  the 
leading  phases  of  that  polity.  Taking  up  the  various 
topics  in  the  order  in  which  they  have  already  been 
discussed,  we  enquire  first  of  all  what  traces,  if  any, 
of  the  Celtic  law  of  Tanistry  are  to  be  met  with  in 
Clan  Donald  history  up  to  the  middle  of  the 
sixteenth  century.  To  this  enquiry  we  think  it  may 
be  confidently  answered  that,  in  the  first  place,  in 
the  succession  of  Angus  Og  to  his  brother  Alexander, 
the  principle  of  Tanistry  entered  as  a  dominating 
influence.  It  may  certainly  be  said  with  truth  that 
Alexander's  opposition  to  Bruce  was  a  determining 
factor  in  the  case,  inasmuch  as  it  shut  oat  himself 
and  his  posterity  from  the  possession  of  the  terri- 
tories which  belonged  to  him  by  hereditary  right, 
but  could  not  be  enjoyed  without  the  royal  favour. 
On  the  other  hand,  succession  to  the  chiefship  of  a 
clan  was  quite  a  different  matter  from  lordship  over 
lands,  and  was  governed  by  totally  different  prin- 
ciples. If  succession  to  lands  was  now  affected  by 
feudalism,  succession  to  a  chiefship  was  still,  and 
long  after,  a  question  upon  which  the  voice  of  the 
clan,   which    was   a  potent    element    in   the   law   of 

^  Comraich  =  protection,  vide  Macbain's  Etymological  Dictioiiaiy,  p.  284. 


tanistry,  made  itself  effectually  heard.  The  suc- 
cession of  Angus  Og  to  the  exclusion  of  the  son  of 
Alexander  could  hardly  have  been  accomplished  so 
quietly,  and  without  any  apparent  dissent,  were  it 
not  that  the  succession  of  one  brother  to  another 
appealed  to  the  traditional  sentiments  of  the  race. 
We  may  be  sure  that  the  question  was  well  weighed 
by  the  Council  of  Finlaggan,  and  that  the  assump- 
tion of  the  sceptre  of  the  Clan  Cholla  by  Angus  Og, 
only  took  place  after  due  and  earnest  consideration 
on  the  part  of  the  officials  of  the  Clan. 

The  operation  of  the  same  law  is  to  be  seen  in 
the  succession  of  Donald  of  Harlaw,  preferably  to  his 
brother  Reginald,  the  son  of  John  of  Isla  by  the 
first  marriage.  Here  also  there  were  causes  deter- 
mining the  issue,  other  than  the  law  of  tanistry. 
The  whole  train  of  events  was  set  in  motion  by  the 
influence  of  Robert  IL  to  divert  the  honours  of  the 
House  of  Isla  to  the  family  of  his  own  daughter.  It 
is  clear  that  Reginald,  the  oldest  surviving  son  of 
Amis  Macruari,  was  the  lawful  son,  and  by  the  law  of 
primogeniture  the  heir  of  John  of  Isla.  It  is  equally 
clear  that  Reginald  abandoned  his  position  as  the 
heir  of  his  father,  both  to  the  chiefship  aiid  the 
estates,  by  two  acts  which  are  indubitably  vouched. 
In  the  first  place,  he  resigned  his  rights  as  the  heir 
of  his  father's  lordship  by  accepting  of  a  charter  for 
a  portion  of  the  lands  of  that  lordship,  and  however 
princely  in  extent  the  domain  thus  accruing  to  him 
certainly  was,  the  charter  in  question  transferred 
him  from  the  position  of  the  prospective  Lord  of  the 
Isles  to  that  of  a  vassal  of  the  Isles.  And  in  the 
second  place,  he  deprived  himself  of  the  Chiefship  of 
the  Clan,  and  made  himself  a  vassal  Celtically  as 
well   as    feudally,  by   handing  over  the  sceptre  of 


4  J  8  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Innse-Gall  to  Donald  at  Kildonan.  The  ceremony 
that  took  place  there  was  a  purely  Celtic  function, 
and  not  in  any  sense  a  feudal  investiture,  and  it 
seems  unquestionably  to  prove  that  as,  according  to 
a  root  idea  of  tanistry,  Celtic  succession  was  hereditary 
in  the  family,  while  it  was  elective  in  the  individual, 
Donald,  on  the  resignation  by  his  brother  Reginald 
of  his  reversion  to  the  Chiefship,  became,  with  the 
approval  of  the  Clan,  Donald  of  Isla,  Lord  of  the 
Isles,  and  head  of  the  Family  of  Macdonald. 

John  Mor,  second  son  of  John  of  Isla  by  his 
second  marriage,  was  called,  as  is  well  known,  the 
Tainistear  of  Macdonald.  The  principle  of  the  title 
and  the  functions  exercised  by  him  in  that  capacity, 
must  have  been  in  accordance  with  the  restricted 
application  of  the  law  set  forth  in  the  ancient 
Chronicle  quoted  by  Dr  Skene.  It  could  not  have 
meant  that  there  was  any  provision  for  his  succeed- 
ing, on  the  death  of  his  brother  Donald,  if  Donald 
left  heirs  male  of  his  own  body,  for  the  feudal  law  of 
primogeniture  was  now  too  strong  to  permit  of  such 
an  eventuality.  There  must,  however,  have  been 
some  publicly  acknowledged  position  given  to  John 
Mor  as  the  Tainistear,  though  no  specific  record  of  the 
fact  seems  to  have  survived.  Such  an  appointment 
may  have  been  made  to  meet  certain  contingencies 
that  were  by  no  means  impossible  or  improbable. 
During  the  latter  days  of  Donald  of  Harlaw,  his 
son  Alexander  was  in  reality  the  only  individual 
standing  between  the  House  of  Dunnyveg  and  the 
succession,  for  Angus,  the  only  other  son  of  Donald, 
had  entered  the  Church,  and  was  therefore  ineligible 
for  the  position.  This  fact,  coupled  with  Alexander's 
youth,  was  to  all  appearance  the  reason,  and  a 
sutiicient  reason  it  was,  why  the  name  of  the  founder 


of  the  House  of  Dunny veg  should  have  come  down 
to  us  as  John  Mor  Tainistear.  Other  instances 
of  the  operation  of  this  Celtic  law  arose,  hut  these 
belonged  to  a  period  rather  later  than  that  under 
consideration.  Those  already  cited  are  sufficient  to 
indicate  traces  of  a  principle  which  in  early  times 
must  have  been  a  dominant  feature  in  the  political 
life  of  the  Clan  Cholla. 

Of  the  office  of  Toshach,  or  military  leader,  as 
distinct  from  the  hereditary  Chief,  we  find  traces  in 
the  history  of  our  clan.  We  have  the  authority  of 
Dr  Skene  in  his  earliest  work  for  believing  that  such 
an  office  existed,  and  was  recognised,  as  vested  in 
the  oldest  cadet  of  the  clan  ;  but  although  this 
would  be  in  entire  accordance  with  the  history  and 
genius  of  the  Celt,  we  have  come  across  no  direct 
proof  of  the  fact.  Whether  this  be  so  or  not,  we 
find  that,  practically,  the  military  leader  was  at  times 
some  one  else  than  the  Chief.  Whether  Godfrey 
Mac  Fergus,  Toshach  of  the  Isles,  who  flourished  in 
the  eighth  century,  was  the  chief  of  his  race,  or, 
according  to  Dr  Skene's  view,  the  military  leader 
only,  and  the  senior  cadet  of  his  tribe,  we  are  unable 
to  say.  We  find,  however,  a  practical  application 
of  the  principle,  if  not  of  the  name,  in  the  events  of 
the  time  of  Alexander,  Earl  of  Koss,  and  his  son 
John.  Donald  Balloch  was  the  son  of  John  Mor, 
the  Tainistear  of  the  Isles,  and  although  that 
title  was  not  applied  to  Donald,  so  far  as  we 
are  aware,  he  probably  filled  the  position,  as  he 
certainly  exercised  the  functions  of  the  kindred 
office  of  Toshach,  or  Captain  of  the  hosts  of  Clan 
Donald,  in  the  time  of  both  these  chiefs.  From 
1431  down  to  1463,  Donald  Balloch  was  the  leader 
of  the  Clan  Donald  hosts  in  battle,  and  remembering 

420  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

that  he  was  the  head  of  the  leading  cadet  family  of 
the  House  into  which  the  honours  of  the  line  had 
passed,  his  position  is  so  far  a  confirmation  of  the 
view  that  has  been  referred  to.  In  more  recent 
times  the  Highlanders  seem  to  have  recognised  a 
distinction  between  the  military  and  patriarchal 
head,  though  neither  bard  nor  seanachie  makes  use  of 
the  designation  Toshach.  The  term  most  closely 
akin  is  "  Captain,"  which  the  Gaelic  people  seem 
very  readily  to  have  appropriated  to  signify  the 
same  idea.  We  find  it  in  some  instances  made  use 
of  when  doubt  existed  as  to  the  individual  so  named 
being  actually  the  chief  of  the  clan.  John  Moy- 
dartach  and  his  father,  Alastair  Mac  Allan,  were 
each  styled  Captain  of  the  Clan  E,anald,  its  fighting 
as  distinguished  from  its  patriarchal  head,  the  latter 
being  a  position  which  their  opponents  rightly  or 
wrongly — we  cannot  pause  to  enquire  at  present 
which — were  not  disjDOsed  to  allow  them.  Only 
once  or  twice  do  we  find  this  title  of  "  Captain" 
applied  to  any  individual  of  the  Family  of  Sleat. 
In  1545,  Archibald  the  Clerk,  who  was  head  of 
the  Clan  Uisdean  during  the  minority  of  his  grand- 
nephew,  styled  himself,  and  was  described  in  public 
records,  as  "  Captain"  of  the  Clan  Uisdean.  John 
Lorn,  the  Lochaber  bard,  in  his  poem  to  the  first 
Sir  James  Macdonald  of  Sleat,  concludes  his  first 
verse  with  the  words — 

"  Slaiut  do  Chaipteiu  Clanu  Domhauill,"  &c. 

In  this  latter  case,  the  title  of  Captain  is  applied  to 
the  actual  Chief,  but  this  evidently  in  his  capacity 
of  military  head  of  his  people.  On  the  whole,  we 
are  disposed  to  think  that  as  "  Captain"  was  applied 
to  the  leader  of  the  tribe  in  war,  as  distinguished 


from  the  hereditary  Chief,  so  its  ancient  synonym 
(Toshach)  would  have  been  the  title  among  the  Clan 
Choha  given  to  the  official  lieutenant-general,  when 
he  was  separate  and  distinct  from  the  Ceann  Chuiidh. 
Like  all  ancient  Celtic  offices,  it  was  hereditary,  and, 
according  to  Dr  Skene,  vested  in  the  family  of 
greatest  power  and  influence  next  to  that  from 
which  the  Chief  was  chosen. 

We  have  touched  upon  the  judicial  functions 
resting  in  the  Chief,  or  Ceann  Cinnidh,  and  in  the 
more  advanced  stages  of  Gaelic  society  devolving 
upon  hereditary  officials  specially  endowed  with 
lands  for  their  support.  Previous  to  the  days  of 
Somerled,  the  Norwegians  had  a  Sheriff  of  the  Isles, 
but  under  the  House  of  Isla,  as  Hugh  Macdonald, 
the  Sleat  Seanachie,  affirms,  there  was  a  judge  in 
every  isle  for  the  discussion  of  all  controversies,  who 
had  lands  from  Macdonald  for  their  trouble,  and 
also  the  eleventh  part  of  every  action  decided,  but 
from  whose  judgment  there  was  an  appeal  to  the 
Council  of  Finlaggan,  whose  decision  was  absolutely 
final, ^  The  judges  of  the  Isles,  who  might  be  the 
local  barons  or  special  officials,  often  held  their 
courts  on  the  summit  of  a  rising  ground,  and  were 
usually  helped  in  their  decisions  by  local  or  pro- 
vincial councils.  A  hill  in  Skye,  at  Duntulm,  an 
ancient  residence  of  the  Chiefs  of  Sleat,  is  called 
Cnoc  na  h-eiric,'^  or  the  hill  of  ransom,  so  called 
because  the  settlement  pf  causes  was  determined — 
save  in  instances  of  capital  punishment — by  the 
administration  of  fines.  Among  questions  that  came 
up  for  settlement,  a  frequent  one  was  the  arrange- 
ment of  boundaries,  and  the  method  sometimes 
adopted   for   preserving  a  record   of  these  matters 

^  Collectanea  de  Rebus  Albanicis,  p.  297.  -  Pennant,  vol.  II.,  p.  304. 

422  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

partook  of*  the  quaintness  spiced  with  cruelty 
characteristic  of  a  primitive  time.  When  the 
marches  had  been  fixed,  several  boys  received  a 
sound  thrashing  on  the  spot,  and  thus  it  was  pro- 
vided that,  if  no  record  was  kept  on  sheepskin,  there 
would  be  those  among  the  rising  generation  who 
bore  the  impress  of  the  transaction  upon  their  own 
skins,  and  thus  from  whose  minds  the  memory  of 
the  day's  proceedings  would  never  fade  away. 

We  have  already  seen  that  the  ancient  name 
for  the  judge  under  a  tribe  was  "  Toshachdeora," 
which  signifies  derivatively  "  the  chief  man  of 
law,"  the  name  of  his  office  being  Toshachcleorachd. 
The  existence  of  the  designation  in  records  connected 
with  particular  districts  in  comparatively  modern 
times  affords  an  interesting  testimony  to  the 
existence  of  the  tribal  organisation  there  in  days 
long  gone  by.  We  find  a  reference  to  this  office  in 
regions  within  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  and  once 
at  least  apparently  existing  side  by  side  with  the 
feudal  office  of  bailie.  In  1455,  John,  Earl  of  E-oss, 
and  Lord  of  the  Isles,  confirms  to  Neill  McNeill  a 
grant  made  by  his  father  to  Torquil  McNeill,  con- 
stable of  the  Castie  of  Swyffin,  the  father  of  Neill, 
of  the  office  called  Toshachdeora  of  the  lands  of 
Knapdale.^  In  1456,  the  same  John,  Earl  of  Ross, 
grants  to  his  esquire  Somerled,  son  of  John,  son  of 
Somerled,  for  life,  and  to  his  eldest  son  for  five 
years  after  his  death,  a .  davach  of  his  lands  of 
Gleneves,  with  the  office  commonly  called  Toshach- 
deora, of  all  his  lands  of  Lochaber,  and  he  seems  to 
have  derived  from  it  the  name  of  Toche  or  Tosach, 
as  in  1553  or  1554  the  same  lands  of  Gleneves  are 
granted   to  his  grandson,  here  called  Donald  Mac- 

^  Grig.  Par.  Scot.,  vol.  II.,  p.  61, 


Allaster  Mic  Toche.  It  is  somewhat  singular  that, 
notwithstanding  the  maintenance  of  this  Celtic 
office  by  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  a  feudal  bailiary 
co-existed  with  it,  for  in  1447,  Alexander,  Earl  of 
Ross,  granted  to  the  Mackintosh  a  charter  of  the 
bailiary  of  the  lands  of  Lochaber,  an  office  which 
became  hereditary  in  that  family.  In  what  relation 
the  baihe  and  the  Toshachdeora  stood  to  one  another; 
whether  the  former  alone  exercised  an  effective 
magistracy,  and  the  latter  was  only  an  honorary 
appointment,  a  sinecure  valuable  to  the  holder 
because  of  the  lands  connected  with  it  as  the  sur- 
vival of  a  past  order ;  or  whether  the  holder  of  the 
office  acted  as  an  officer  under  the  bailie,  we  cannot 
exactly  say.  It  is  highly  probable  that,  at  the  time 
of  which  we  Imve  these  scanty  notices,  the  office  was 
fast  decaying,  and  M'as  of  service  only  in  providing  a 
snug  provision  for  favourites  of  the  Island  Lords. 

We  have  seen  that,  originally,  succession  to 
the  headship  of  a  tribe  or  clan,  was  not  according 
to  the  feudal  law  of  primogeniture,  but  by  the 
Celtic  law  of  tanistry.  We  also  find  that 
the  transmission  of  lands  was  not  dominated  by 
primogeniture,  but  by  the  Celtic  law  of  gavel, 
by  which  a  father  in  disposing  of  his  territories 
divided  them  equally  among  his  sons.  The 
circumstances  of  these  far  past  times  rendered 
such  proceedings  necessary  and  even  desirable. 
There  did  not  then  exist  those  manifold  outlets  for 
the  industry  and  energy  of  sons  which  render  society 
now-a-days  less  dependent  than  formerly  upon  the 
soil.  When  sons  grew  to  man's  estate,  and  possessed 
families  of  their  own,  the  only  possible  provision  foi 
them  was  to  settle  them  upon  the  land,  nor  was  the 
necessity  so  much  to  be  deplored  at  a  time  when  the 

424  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

population,  as  a  whole,  was  sparse,  and  the  power 
and  security  of  a  trihe  depended  so  largely  uj)on  the 
numbers  that  could  be  mustered  when  the  day  of 
battle  came.  The  gavelling  of  lands  was  a  distinct 
feature  of  the  social  history  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles. 
Somerled  divided  the  greater  part  of  his  immense 
territory  in  equal  portions  between  his  sons,  Reginald, 
Dugall,  and  Angus,  while  the  other  sons  seem  to 
have  obtained  smaller  grants  upon  the  mainland. 
Reginald  similarly  divided  his  lands  among  his  sons, 
Donald,  Roderick,  and  Dugall.  Donald  divided  his 
lands  between  Angus  Mor  and  Alexander,  while 
Angus  Mor  acted  similarly  to  his  three  sons,  Alex- 
ander, Angus  (3g,  and  John  Sprangach.  The 
tendency  towards  a  gradual  attenuation  of  the 
ancestral  domains  was  arrested  in  the  case  of  the 
"  Good  John,"  for  he,  being  the  only  legitimate  son 
of  Angus  Og,  inherited,  not  only  the  lands  gavelled 
by  Angus  Mor  to  his  father,  but  also  those  forfeited 
by  his  uncle,  Alexander,  Lord  of  the  Isles,  along 
with  others  that  accrued  through  the  forfeiture  of 
the  Comyns,  Macdougalls,  and  others.  His  estates 
were  still  further  enlarged  by  his  first  wife,  Amie 
Macruari,  bringing  over  to  him  the  patrimony  of  the 
branch  of  the  House  of  Somerled  of  which  she  was 
the  sole  legitimate  surviving  heir.  No  sooner  has 
this  remarkable  consolidation  of  territory  taken 
place  than  the  law  of  gavel  again  steps  in,  and  a 
new  division  of  the  estates  of  the  House  of  Isla  takes 
place.  John  divides  his  lands  by  charter  and  other- 
wise among  his  seven  sons,  thus  keeping  up,  amid 
feudal  forms,  the  old  succession  to  lands  by  the  law 
of  gavel. 

As  already  stated,  the  Chiefs  direct  possession 
oi-    occupancy    of    land     seems     to    have    originally 


extended  little  beyond  the  demesne  or  manor  lands, 
which  were  attached  to  his  principal  residence. 
Thus  we  find  that,  of  the  immense  territories 
governed  by  the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  a  comparatively 
small  portion  was  in  their  actual  occupation.  The 
great  bulk  of  its  area  was  held  of  them  in  vassalage 
by  cadets  of  their  own  House  and  by  other  Western 
clans.  Over  the  lands  held  of  them  in  vassalage 
they  seem  to  have  maintained  sovereign  and  undis- 
puted sway.  Although  charters  confirming  the 
ownership  of  land  seem  to  have  been  in  existence 
even  in  the  days  of  Somerled,  not  until  the  days 
of  Angus  Og,  one  hundred  and  fifty  years  later,  did 
tlie  Lords  of  the  Isles  give  any  real  acknowledgment 
of  superiority,  either  to  Norway  or  Scotland.  On 
the  other  hand,  they  exercised  their  lordly  or  kingly 
rights  by  bestowing  lands  by  verbal  gift,  as  well  as 
by  feudal  charters.  Verbal  gifts  of  land  were,  of 
course,  the  ancient  method  of  conveyance,  and 
accompanied,  as  these  always  were,  by  appropriate 
symbols  of  investiture,  such  as  sword,  helmet,  horn, 
or  cup  of  the  lord,  sometimes  spur,  bow  and  arrow, 
the  act  was  regarded  as  solemnly  conferring  real  and 
inalienable  rights.  An  interesting  verbal  grant  has 
survived,  made  by  Donald,  either  the  progenitor  of 
the  clan  or  the  hero  of  Harlaw,  in  which,  sitting  upon 
Dundonald,  he  grants  the  lands  of  Kilmahumaig,  in 
Kintyre,  to  Mackay  for  ever  : — 

"  Mise  Domhnull  Mac  Dhomhnuill 
Am  shuidh  air  Dun  Domhnuill 
Toirt  coir  do  Mhac  Aigh  air  Kilmahumaig 
S  gu  la  brath'ch  mar  sin." 

From  a  very  early  period,  from  Reginald,  the  son 
of  Somerled,  downwards,  the  Lords  of  the  Isles,  if 
they  did  not  receive,  granted  lands  by  charter  to 

426  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

the  Church  and  individuals  ;  and,  at  intervals, 
as  long  as  the  Lordship  lasted.  The  earlier 
charters,  those  of  the  twelfth  and  thirteenth 
centuries,  are  couched  in  mediaeval  Latin,  and  it  is 
a  peculiar  feature  of  these  that  they  are  never 
dated,  neither  the  year  of  the  Lord  nor  of  the 
reigning  sovereign  given  to  indicate  the  period.  In 
some  Scottish  records  of  the  age,  such  an  entry  as 
we  find  in  the  Book  of  Innes  Charter,  Post  con- 
cordiam  cum  Somerledo,  helps  us  to  specify  a  certain 
year  ;  but  the  dates  of  the  charters  granted  by  the 
earlier  Lords  of  the  Isles  can  only  be  a  matter  of 
conjecture.  It  is  only  about  the  middle  of  the 
fifteenth  century  that  we  find  a  charter  of  the  Lords 
of  the  Isles  written  in  the  vernacular  Scotch  of  the 
day,  showing  that  the  spoken  language  of  the  people 
was  beginning  to  supersede  Latin  for  documentary 
purposes.  Judging,  however,  from  the  verbal 
charter  already  quoted,  as  well  as  from  the  still 
more  interesting  charter  of  1408,  by  Donald  of 
Harlaw,  many  of  the  Macdonald  grants,  both  verbal 
and  written,  must  have  been  expressed  in  the 
language  of  the  Gael.  On  a  strip  of  goatskin  the 
Lord  of  the  Isles  conveys  certain  lands  on  the 
Rhinns  of  Isla  to  "  Brian  Bicare  Magaodh,"  on  con- 
dition that  he  would  supply  his  house  annually  with 
seven — probably  fat — kine.  The  Magaodhs  seem  to 
have  emigrated  to  the  North  of  Ireland,  having  lost 
their  property  after  the  fall  of  the  House  of  Isla,  and 
a  few  years  ago  this  unique  charter  was  found  in 
the  possession  of  one  Magee,  resident  in  County 
Antrim,  a  descendant  of  the  original  grantee. 
Magee  was  persuaded  that  the  Register  House  in 
Edinburgh  was,  on  the  whole,  more  likely  to  preserve 
the  terms  of  this  ancient  charter  than  the  peat-bank 


in  which,  for  safe  custody,  it  was  deposited  until  the 
family  estates  in  some  good  time  coming  are 
restored.  In  the  Register  House,  therefore,  it  is 
now  kept,  an  interesting  testimony  to  the  Gaelic 
spirit  and  sentiment  of  the  great  Highland  Lord 
who  braved  the  might  of  Scotland. 

Hugh  Macdonald,  the  Sleat  Seanachie,  informs  us 
that  among  the  functionaries  of  the  Island  Lordship 
there  was  a  Recorder,  or,  as  we  might  term  him,  a 
Secretary  of  State  of  the  Isles,  an  hereditary  office 
belonging  to  the  MacDuffies  of  Colonsay.  We  do 
not  suppose  that  the  keeping  of  the  Island  records 
meant  that  the  MacDuffie  of  the  day  was  of  neces- 
sity the  actual  scribe.  The  clergy,  both  of  Ross 
and  the  Isles,  sometimes  performed  the  part  of 
notaries  public  for  the  lords  of  these  regions.  Not 
only  so,  but  we  find  Thomas  of  Dingwall,  sub-deacon 
of  the  Diocese  of  Ross,  acting  as  Chamberlain  for 
the  Earldom  in  1468,  a  fact  that  need  not  surj^rise 
us  when  we  remember  that  the  education  needed 
for  the  management  of  revenues,  keeping  of  accounts, 
and  other  estate  business  was  almost  confined  to  the 
clergy  in  those  days.  The  Betons,  who  were  heredi- 
tary physicians  to  the  Family  of  Isla,  sometimes 
acted  as  clerks,  and  it  was  by  one  of  them  that  the 
Gaelic  Charter  of  1403  was  written.  The  Records 
of  the  Isles,  ever  since  lona  became  the  centre  of 
learning  and  religion,  have  been  subject  to  an 
unhappy  fate.  The  repeated  and  savage  inroads 
of  the  Danes  destroyed  what  must  have  undoubtedly 
been  a  valuable  collection  of  MSS.,  and  the  fall  of 
the  Lordship  of  the  Isles  in  1493,  with  the  turmoil 
that  ensued  for  upwards  of  half  a  century,  resulted 
in  the  loss  of  the  Records  of  that  principality, 
which    would    probably,    had    they    survived,    have 

428  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

shed  a  flood  of  light  upon  certain  problems  con- 
nected with  Highland  history  which,  with  our 
present  information,   seem  well-nigh  insoluble. 

The  dignity  of  the  Lord  of  the  Isles  was 
maintained  by  the  mensal  lands  set  apart  for  him, 
and  by  the  tribute  paid  him  by  his  vassals.  But 
there  were  also  old  forms  of  Celtic  taxation  which 
the  Chief  enjoyed,  and  which,  according  to  certain 
interesting  evidence,  prevailed  within  the  Lord- 
ship of  the  Isles,  either  appropriated  by  Macdonald 
himself,  or  conveyed  along  with  lands  to  his  vassals. 
The  charter  by  Alexander,  Earl  of  Ross,  in  which  he 
grants  the  Lordship  of  Lochaber  to  the  Mackintosh 
in  1443,  sheds  an  interesting  light  upon  the  lights 
and  privileges  of  the  Lords  of  the  Isles  and  those 
who  held  lands  of  them  by  feudal  tenure.  Taking 
the  latter  part  of  the  deed  in  question  first,  as 
bearing  more  directly  upon  the  rights  of  the  superior, 
we  find  the  conditions  of  grant  to  be  servitium, 
Wai'di  et  Relevii,  the  service  of  wardship  and  relief 
on  the  part  of  the  vassal.  The  right  of  wardship 
was  one  of  the  feudal  casualties  which  usually 
belonged  either  to  the  King  or  to  the  highest  rank 
of  lay  and  ecclesiastical  magnates.  It  consisted  of 
the  guardianship  of  a  fief  during  the  non-age  of  the 
heir  apparent,  and  this  meant  nothing  less  than  the 
actual  possession  of  the  estates  by  the  tutor  during 
his  tenure  of  ofiice.  These  wardships  appear  to  have 
frequently  been  sold  or  granted  to  the  nearest  male 
relative,  and  have  proved  stumbling  blocks  to 
modern  antiquarians,  who  have  at  times  in  their 
genealogical  researches  failed  to  remember  the 
operations  of  this  feudal  principle.  In  this  manner 
David  of  Huntingdon  enjoyed  the  Earldom  of 
Lennox,   Alan    Durward    that  of  Athol,    and    Earl 


Malcolm  of  Angus  that  of  Caithness,  during  the 
minority  of  the  heirs.  ^  It  will  be  remembered  that, 
in  the  treaty  between  England  Balliol,  and  John  of 
Isla,  in  1335,  by  which  various  lauds  were  bestowed 
upon  the  Lord  of  the  Isles,  not  the  fee  simple,  but 
the  wardship  of  Lochaber,  "  until  the  attainment 
to  man's  estate  of  the  son  and  heir  of  Lord  David 
of  Strathbolgy,  the  last  Earl  of  Athole,"  was  bestowed 
upon  the  Lord  of  the  Isles. ^  It  was  not  until  1343 
that  Lochaber,  owing  to  the  death  of  the  heir  referred 
to,  was  actually  conveyed  to  John  of  Isla  by  charter. 
Now,  a  little  over  200  years  later,  the  Earl  of  Ross, 
in  granting  the  same  lands  to  the  Mackintosh, 
retains  the  reversion  of  the  wardship,  his  interest  in 
the  lands  being  precisely  that  enjoyed  by  his  grand- 
father under  Edward  Balliol.  The  wardship  by 
itself,  however,  might  j)i^ove  a  barren  honour  if,  as 
was  possible,  the  heir  on  all  occasions  succeeded 
when  he  was  of  full  age  ;  so  there  accompanied  the 
wardship  a  fine  or  tax  called  "  Belief,"  exacted  from 
every  heir  on  succeeding  to  his  patrimony. 

Looking  further  into  the  contents  of  the  same 
charter,  we  fiad  enumerated  among  the  perquisites 
of  the  vassal  for  the  Lordship  of  Lochaber  three 
items  which  lend  some  interest  to  the  social  history 
of  the  day,  namely,  Blude-wetis,  herezaldis,  mulierum 
merchetis.  Each  of  these  in  turn  demands  some 
attention.  The  word  Blude-wetis  is  a  Latinized 
form  of  the  ancient  hlodivite,  also  known  among  the 
Saxons  as  Wergild,  and  among  the  Gael  as  Eirig.^ 
It  signified  the  compensation  payable  by  any  who 
had    committed    homicide    to   the    kindred    of  the 

^  Scotland  under  her  Early  Kiugs,  vol.  II.,  p.  129. 
"  Vide  p.  106  of  this  vol. 

^  Elriy,  supposed  to  be  derived  liom  fear,  a  mau,  and  reic,  to  sell,  thus 
meaning  a  man's  value  in  money  or  kind. 

430  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

deceased.  The  custom  was  very  ancient,  and  seems 
to  have  been  known,  though  divmely  disallowed  in 
the  case  of  wilful  homicide,  at  the  time  when  the 
Mosaic  code  was  being  formulated,^  It  was  not 
incumbent  upon  the  friends  to  accept  a  compensation 
for  their  kinsman's  slaughter,  as  the  stern  desire  for 
vengeance  could  not  always  be  set  at  rest  by  any 
means  save  the  blood  of  the  offender.  When  the 
fine  was  accepted,  the  amount  was  determined  by 
the  rank  of  the  deceased,  and  the  ancient  codes 
detailing  the  Cro  or  liability  of  persons  according 
to  the  rank  of  the  slain,  have  been  among  the  chief 
sources  of  our  knowledge  of  social  grades  among 
Teutonic  and  Celtic  nations.  The  early  principle  by 
which  the  immediate  kindred  of  the  deceased  were 
regarded  as  alone  interested  in  the  blood  feud  seems 
to  have  become  modified  with  time.  Homicide  or 
murder  was  looked  at  as  a  crime  against  the  com- 
munity or  state  as  well  as  against  the  individual,  and 
part  of.  the  blood  money  came  to  be  a  public  due 
paid  into  the  coffers  of  the  King,  the  ofiicial  head  of 
the  nation.  This  reference  to  the  custom  in  the 
Mackintosh  charter  is  the  only  evidence  we  have 
hitherto  come  across  as  to  the  existence  of  the 
hludivite  within  the  Lordship  of  the  Isles,  at  anyrate 
so  late  as  the  middle  of  the  fifteenth  century. 

We  have  already  referred  to  the  cai^^e,  an  impost 
paid  by  the  "  native  men"  for  the  benefit  of  living 
under  the  protection  of  a  conquering  Chief  This  is 
doubtless  synonymous  with  the  herezeldis  of  the 
Charter,  for  a  tax  somewhat  similar  to  the  calpe, 
entitled  "  heregild,"  prevailed  in  the  Saxon  districts 
of  Scotland  certainly  as  late  as  the  fifteenth  and 
sixteenth  centuries.'^     It  is   notable  that  a  curious 

^  Numb.  XXXV.  31-3'2.  ^  Sir  David  Lindsay's  "  Three  Estates.'' 


variation  of  this  tax  of  calpe  existed  until  last 
century  in  North  Uist,  said  to  have  been  intro- 
duced by  a  son  of  Godfrey,  lord  of  that  Island.  On 
the  death  of  any  of  the  tenants,  the  best  horse  in 
the  widow's  stable  was  appropriated  for  the  behoof 
of  the  landlord,  and  this  horse,  for  what  reason 
it  is  difficult  to  say,  was  called  the  each  ursainn} 
Singular  to  say,  while  the  Celtic  law  of  calpe  was 
abolished  by  the  Legislature  in  the  seventeenth 
century,  this  tax  lingered  in  North  Uist  for  upwards 
of  one  hundred  years  thereafter. 

Once  more  reverting  to  the  Mackintosh  Charter 
of  1443,  we  find  a  tax  which  has  given  rise  to  a 
good  deal  of  speculation,  namely,  that  designated 
Mulierum  Mercheta,  and  which  consisted,  at  any- 
rate  in  later  days,  of  a  tax  payment  by  a  vassal  to 
his  lord  upon  the  marriage  of  his  daughter.  In 
connection  with  this  particular  point,  and  arising  out 
of  it,  we  think  it  desirable  to  enter  briefly  into  the 
wider  question  of  the  marriage  laws  that  existed  of 
old  in  Celtic  Scotland.  Roman  writers,  from  Julius 
Csesar  downwards,  have  stated,  one  after  the  other, 
that  a  system  of  community  of  wives  prevailed 
among  the  ancient  Caledonians.  There  are  un- 
doubtedly indications  in  what  has  survived  of  the 
history  of  pre-Christian  ages  that  the  relations 
between  the  sexes  were,  as  might  be  expected,  looser 
and  less  regulated  among  the  ancient  Celts  of  Scot- 
land than  they  have  been  within  the  Christian 
period.  Sons  were  regarded  as  belonging  to  their 
mothers'  rather  than  to  their  fathers'  tribes,  while  it 
was  through  females  that  the  succession  to  family 
honours,  and  particulaily  to  the  supreme  dynasty  of 

^  By  a  proLusi  quite  iutelligible  to  a  Gaelic  speaker,  ursainn  may  be  a 
corruption  of  "  herezild." 

432  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

Pictland,  was  regulated.  The  succession  of  Kenneth 
M'Alpin  to  the  throne  of  united  Alban  was  brought 
about  through  his  being  the  grandson  of  Ungusia, 
wife  of  a  Pictish  King.  Social  laws  and  customs 
long  survive  the  causes  that  produce  them,  and  this 
succession  through  a  female  probably  indicates  the 
existence  of  a  state  of  society  at  a  vastly  remoter 
time,  when  the  parentage  of  the  mother  was  the 
only  certain  guarantee  as  to  a  particular  line  of 

Whetlier  the  custom  known  in  Gaelic  histor}'-  as 
"  hand -fasting:"  was  that  which  suo-gfested  to  Caesar 
and  other  Koman  writers  this  somewhat  revolting 
idea  of  "  polyandria,"  or  whether  hand-fasting  may 
be  a  modification  or  development  of  the  social  con- 
dition described,  it  is  difficult  to  say.  If  hand-fasting 
did  not  amount  to  a  community  of  wives,  it  certainly 
meant  that  a  woman  could  possibly  enter  into  con- 
jugal relations  with  several  living  men  within  the 
limits  of  a  few  years.  The  contract  sometimes  took 
place  in  this  wise.  An  agreement  was  entered  into 
between  two  chiefs,  that  the  heir  of  the  one  should 
live  for  twelve  months  and  a  day  with  the  daughter 
of  the  other.  The  contract  provided  further  that,  in 
the  event  of  the  lady,  within  that  period,  becoming 
a  mother,  the  marriage  became  good  in  law,  even 
without  the  imprimatur  of  the  Church,  but  if  there 
was  no  appearance  of  issue,  the  contract  was  dis- 
solved, and  each  was  allowed  to  marry  or  hand-fast 
with  another.  The  survival  of  a  custom  so  abhorrent 
to  the  Church,  and  inconsistent  with  feudal  law, 
long  after  the  introduction  of  Christianity  and  Saxon 
culture,  is  only  to  be  accounted  for  by  its  being 
congenial  to  the  Celtic  system.  The  form  of  Gaelic 
society  was  of  such  a  nature  that  the  welfare  of  the 


community  depended  greatly  upon  the  birth  of  heirs 
to  carry  on  the  ancestral  line,  and  this  fact  was 
suflScient  to  perpetuate  for  ages  a  system  of  men 
taking  wives  unto  themselves  on  approbation.  The 
Highlanders  regarded  the  issue  of  such  marriages  as 
perfectly  legitimate,  and  absolutely  distinct  from 
bastardy.  Instances  of  the  issue  of  hand-fasted 
parents  being  regarded  as  legitimate  could  easily  be 
quoted.  John  Maclean,  fourth  laird  of  Ardgour, 
hand-fasted  with  a  daughter  of  Macian  of  Ardna- 
murchan,  taking  this  lady,  according  to  the  seanachie 
of  the  clan,  "  upon  the  prospect  of  marriage  if  she 
pleased  him.  At  the  expiration  of  two  years  (the 
period  of  her  noviciate),  he  sent  her  home  to  her 
father,  but  his  offspring  by  her  were  reputed  lawful 
children,  because  their  mother  was  taken  upon  a 
prospect  of  marriage."^  Another  case  in  point  was 
when  the  issue  of  a  hand-fast  marriage  claimed  the 
Earldom  of  Sutherland  in  the  sixteenth  century  "  as 
one  lawfullie  descended  from  his  father,  Earle  John 
the  third,  because,  as  he  alleged,  his  mother  was 
hand-fasted  and  fianced  to  his  father."  As  shewing 
the  strength  of  his  claim,  Sir  Adam  Gordon,  who 
had  married  Earl  John's  heiress,  bought  it  oif  by  the 
payment  of  a  sum  of  money. 

The  opinion  has  been  advanced  that  the  union 
of  John  of  Isla  with  Amie  Macruari  was  a  hand-fast 
marriage,  and  this  has  been  adduced  as  accounting 
for  the  surrender  by  Reginald  of  the  sceptre  of  the 
Isles  to  Donald,  the  eldest  son  of  the  second 
marriage  at  Kildonan.  We  have  already  given  our 
decision,  whatever  be  its  worth,  against  this  view.^ 
Only  a  word  or  two  need  be  said  in  supplement. 
The  authority  of  MacVurich  and  the  Dispensation 

1  The  Clan  Maclean,  by  a  Seanachie,  p.  265.        -  Vide  pp.  128-9 


434  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

of  1337  are  the  main  grounds  set  forth  m  proof  of 
the  feudal  illegitimacy  of  Amie's  sons.  The  accu- 
racy of  the  Clanranald  Seanachie,  when  he  tells  the 
story  of  these  years,  is  by  no  means  unimpeachable, 
and  his  deliverances  display  an  amount  of  historical 
incoherence  which  is  a  httle  perplexing  to  the 
reader.  He  propounds  an  absurd  theory  as  to  the 
parentage  of  the  Princess  Margaret ;  he  says  that 
Reginald's  abdication  in  favour  of  Donald  was 
ao-ainst  the  wishes  of  the  men  of  the  Isles,  and 
almost  in  the  same  breath  makes  the  statement, 
diametrically  opposed,  that  it  was  with  their  consent, 
while  he  seems  entirely  ignorant  of  the  Papal  Dis- 
pensation which,  for  whatever  reason  it  was  obtained, 
rendered  John's  marriage  absolutely  legal,  and  his 
eldest  son  his  feudal  heir.^  Neither  priest  nor  altar 
could  make  this  surer  than  the  authority  of  the 
Church's  earthly  head.  Clearly  MacVurich's  views 
upon  the  subject  were  created  by  the  fact  which  he 
could  not  account  for,  except  by  illegitimacy,  that 
John's  eldest  son  did  not  succeed  his  father.  But 
why  did  the  "  Good  John"  get  this  Papal  Dispensa- 
tion ?  In  the  circumstances  of  his  third  cousinship 
to  his  wife,  it  was  absolutely  necessary.  In  the 
fourth  Council  of  the  Lateran,  the  question  of  the 
forbidden  degrees  of  consanguinity,  which  had  been 
a  burning  one  in  the  Church  for  ages,  was  taken  up. 
There  was  a  relaxation  of  the  stringency  of  former 
times  which  forbade  marriage  between  sixth 
cousins (!),  while  now  it  was  restricted  to  fourth 
cousinship.^  Amie  Macruari  being  John's  third 
cousin,  the  marriage  could  not  possibly  take  place 
without  the  high  authority  of  Rome.  Then  there 
was  obtained,  not  a  legitimation  of  offspring  as  was 

'■  Rcliquire  Ccltiero,  \>.  l'^9.         -  Cone.  Lat.  IV.,  Act.  .'"jO. 


bestowed  upon  Coinneach  a'  Bhlair,  the  Chief  of 
Kintail,  m  1491,  but  a  licence,  or  Dispensation, 
which  permitted  the  celebration  of  a  union  which 
would  otherwise  by  canon  law  have  been  irregular. 
We  must  now  j^ass  from  this  subject  of  hand- 
fasting  to  the  special  aspect  of  the  ancient  marriage 
laws  suggested  by  the  third  item  quoted  from  the 
Mackintosh  Charter  of  1443.  It  seems  necessary 
to  discriminate  between  the  law  of  Maritagium, 
which  meant  the  right  of  bestowing  the  hand  of  an 
heiress  in  marriage,  and  the  muUerum  mercheta,  or 
maiden  fee,  which  was  a  tax  imposed  upon  a  vassal 
on  the  occasion  of  his  dauixhter's  marriaffe.^  This 
maritage,  like  the  rights  of  Ward  and  Relief,  repre- 
sented at  times  a  considerable  pecuniary  interest, 
and  it  was  sometimes  bestowed  in  charters  by  Kings 
and  great  Crown  vassals,  and  sometimes  sold.  In 
the  sixteenth  century  we  find  James  Macdonald  of 
Dunnyveg  and  the  Earl  of  Argyle  eagerly  contend- 
ing for  the  wardship  and  marriage  of  Mary  Macleod^ 
the  heiress  of  Dunvegan,  which  the  Queen  Regent 
had  compelled  the  Earl  of  Huntly  to  relinquish. 
The  mu/ierum  mercJieta,  or  marriage  tax,  paid  by  a 
vassal  to  his  lord,  has  been  made  the  basis  of  purely 
fanciful  and  long-exploded  theories.  According  to 
Hector  Boece,  the  law  of  jus  primce  noctis  was 
devised  and  introduced  by  a  profligate  King 
Evenus,  who  reigned  in  Scotland  shortly  before 
the  Christian  era,  and  it  was  in  force  until  the 
time  of  Malcolm  Canmore,  who  commuted  it  into 
a  fine.  Modern  writers  have  striven  with  great 
ingenuity  to  prove  that  it  jDrevailed  not  only  in 
Scotland,  but  also  in  England,  France,  and  other 
continental  countries  as  a  recognised  right  of  the 

'  Scotlaiid  under  lier  Early  Kings,  vol.  II.,  p.  129. 

436  THE    CLAN    DONALD. 

overlord  in  the  dark  ages  of  feudalism.  After  all, 
this  theory  has  been  founded  upon  a  mistaken 
interpretation  of  old  feudal  phraseology,  into 
which  imaginative  writers  have  read  a  meaning 
which  it  never  bore.^  As  a  matter  of  fact,  it 
was  from  the  very  earliest  times  of  which  we  possess 
any  record  nothing  else  than  a  marriage  tax,  though, 
of  course,  there  is  room  for  differences  of  opinion 
as  to  the  causes  of  its  origin.  According  to 
one  view  it  arose  in  this  wise.  Only  freemen 
who  were  possessed  of  property  could  enter  into  the 
stipulations  necessary  for  contracting  a  marriage. 
Among  the  servile  classes  marriage  could  not  exist ; 
they  were  looked  upon  as  cattle  or  stock,  having 
lost  their  rights  of  kindred,  or  duchas,  and  possessing 
no  privileges  except  the  pleasure  of  their  masters. 
But  there  were  also  dependent  freemen,  such  as  the 
military  followers  among  the  Germanic  nations,  and 
the  amasach  of  Gaelic  races,  who,  having  surrendered 
their  birthright  of  land  for  knightly  service  under 
their  lord  or  chief,  could  neither  marry  nor  give  in 
marriage  without  his  permission,  this  permission 
being  granted  on  payment  of  a  sum  of  money. 
Another  view  of  the  origin  of  this  impost  is  that  it 
was  paid  by  a  tenant  or  vassal  to  the  Chief  as  a 
recompense  for  the  loss  of  the  bride's  services  when 
she  transferred  her  allegiance  to  another  lord,  ser- 
vices to  which  the  Chief,  jure  sanguinis^  was  entitled. 
Both  theories  are  feasible,  and  while  we  do  not 
presume  to  decide  between  them,  it  is  evident  that 
in  either  case  the  mulierum  mercheta  was  a  marriage 
tax,  originating  among  feudal  peoples,  but,  with 
other  Teutonic  customs,  finding  its  way  at  an  early 
period  into  the  social  culture  of  the  Celt. 

^  Scotland  under  her  Early  Kings,  vol,  II.,  p.  307. 


Before  closing  this  chapter,  it  will  be  desirable  to 
give  a  short  survey  of  the  dignity,  sway,  and  wealth 
of  the  family  whose  story  we  have  tried  to  tell.  As 
we  have  seen,  the  chiefs  of  Clan  Cholla  became 
independent  rulers  within  Dalriada  after  Kenneth 
McAlpin  had  moved  eastward  to  become  King  of  the 
new  realm  of  Scotia,  Somerled,  after  he  had  vindi- 
cated his  rights,  assumed  like  his  forbears  the  title 
King  of  the  Isles,  and  was  to  all  intents  and 
purposes  an  independent  prince.  This  sense  of 
independence  he  transmitted  to  a  long  line  of 
successors,  and,  although  at  times  compelled  by  the 
force  of  circumstances  to  profess  allegiance  to  the 
Scottish  Kings,  no  amount  either  of  force  or  con- 
ciliation could  make  them  long  adhere  to  a  submissive 
attitude.  Reginald,  son  of  Somerled,  styled  himself 
Lord  of  Argyle  and  King  of  the  Isles,  a  two-fold 
designation  which  seemed  to  indicate  that  the 
relation  of  his  dynasty  to  the  Isles  was  of  an 
older  and  more  nidependent  character  than  their 
relation  to  Argyle,  Beginald  was  also  the  first 
of  the  family  known  as  De  lie,  though  the 
Isles  must  have  been  the  home  of  the  race 
several  centuries  before  his  day.  This  title  of  Dc 
He  was  the  oldest  territorial  designation  of  his 
family,  and  always  stood  first  and  foremost  in  the 
order  of  their  honours  and  dignities.  It  was  con- 
fined to  the  heads  of  the  race,  and  while  cadets  of 
Macdonald  might  designate  themselves  De  Insulis, 
or  assume  any  other  title  they  chose,  they  never 
presumed  to  adopt  that  of  De  He.  It  is  from  this 
fact,  mainly,  that  we  conclude  the  seniority  of  the 
Clan  Donald  line  over  all  other  branches  descended 
from  Reginald  MacSomerled.  Reginald  was  himself 
De  He,  as  were  his   ancestors  probably  for  many 

438  THb;    CLAN    DONALD. 

generations,  and  while  other  junior  families  branched 
off,  that  of  De  lie,  from  Donald  down  to  the  last 
John,  were  undoubtedly  the  heads  of  the  Clan 
Cholla.  While  they  had  this  territorial  title,  they 
were  also  known  by  others.  Both  in  Ireland  and 
Scotland  they  were  frequently  designated  Rigli 
Innsegall- — Kings  of  the  Isles — and  in  the  beginning 
of  the  fifteenth  century  we  find  McYurich  the  bard 
addressing  his  "  Brosnacha  Catha"  to  Donald  of 
Isla,  King  of  Innse-gall.  Both  in  Ireland  and 
Scotland  the  heads  of  the  Clan  Donald  were  called 
Ardjiath  Iniise  Gall.  On  the  other  hand  it  is 
undoubtedly  the  case  that  the  Celtic  or  patriarchal 
title  of  the  heads  of  the  family,  down  from  the  time 
of  the  first  Donald  De  He,  was  Macdhomhnuill. 
There  is  only  one  signed  charter  from  any  of  the 
heads  of  the  House  of  Isla,  namely,  the  Gaelic 
Charter  by  Donald  of  Harlaw,  in  1408,  and  in  this 
deed  he  styles  himself  without  any  territorial 
addition,  simply  as  Macdonald.  The  Chiefs  of  Isla 
were  all  Macdonald,  from  the  time  of  Angus  Mor 
down  to  Donald  Gallda,  and  Donald  Dubh,  who 
were  both  proclaimed  "Macdonald"  in  their  unsuc- 
cessful efforts  to  revive  the  fallen  principality  of  the 
Isles.  In  the  arming  of  the  last  Lord  of  the  Isles, 
McYurich  speaks  of  John  as  "Macdonald,"  the  noble 
son  of  Alexander,  the  heroic  King  of  Fingall,  and  a 
poem  by  a  contemporary  bard,  quoted  by  the  same 
seannachie,  begins  with  the  words,  "  True  is  my 
praise  of  Macdonald."  In  Ireland,  also,  from  very 
early  times,  the  heads  of  the  race  were  known  by 
the  same  Celtic  title.  In  the  Annals  of  Loch  Ce,